In March of this year, consumption of energy generated from renewable sources of power exceeded consumption from nuclear power in the United States. This information comes from a recent Department of Energy report. Explaining the result, the report states that “in the short term, nuclear outages coincided with the start of the high-water season for hydropower generation in March 2011, pushing renewable energy consumption past that of nuclear. The multi-year upward trend in renewable consumption is driven by increasing consumption of biofuels and wind capacity additions.”
Nuclear power generation decreases every spring and fall as nuclear power plants are shut down for refueling. It seems that spring and fall seasons are used for this process as energy demand for heating/cooling is the least during those temperate seasons. Looking at the numbers and the chart below it is interesting to see how much of the renewable mix is dominated by wind power (31% in 2010). The other large chunk comes from biofuels such as ethanol for cars. Wood biomass also makes up a sizable percentage. Wind has grown considerably in the past few years while despite all the press and attention that solar energy receives, it remains a relative nonentity.
There is one caveat to keep in mind. When solely looking at electricity generation (taking away energy used for transportation, heating, industrial steam production etc.), nuclear power is still generated at higher levels than renewables. It is, however, inspiring to see our energy sources diversify and focus more on renewables. As mentioned the other day, the revolution may be quiet but it’s happening.