WASHINGTON, July 12, 2017 - Monthly electricity generation from renewable sources topped nuclear generation in March and April of this year, something that hasn’t occurred since July 1984, when nuclear power’s reputation had just begun to recover from the Three Mile Island accident. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports the outcome is primarily a result of growth in the renewable sector combined with maintenance scheduling at nuclear plants.
Wind and solar power production have been breaking records this year. More than half of electricity plants coming on line in 2016 were solar and wind, leading to the influx of power from the two this spring. The upturn over last year is reported at 16 percent for wind and 65 percent for solar.
The EIA reports that wind and solar reached a landmark in March and April, producing more than 10 percent of U.S. energy. Then in mid-June, the Global Wind Energy Council announced a milestone with worldwide wind power production topping 500 gigawatts. That same month, the Solar Energy Industries Association reported a breakthrough with 32 percent of California’s power coming from solar resources.
Production for the largest source of renewable electricity, hydroelectricity, reached its highest level in six years this March, yielding 30 billion kilowatt-hours. The surge was, in part, due to heavy precipitation in the West including record moisture levels and snowpack in California. The increase is projected to be 14 percent over 2016 production for the same period.
EIA found mixed results rounding out the renewables energy production statistics. Geothermal showed a 12.2 percent increase between April 2016 and April 2017. Biomass showed a decrease of 8.7 percent.
While renewable power production is on an upswing, nuclear power production volume has shown no growth since the late 1990s. This spring, nuclear power generation dipped to its lowest level since April 2014. The decline was partially due to power plants maintaining and refueling facilities to coincide with a typically lower demand for electricity in the spring. Further hindering nuclear production is the retirement of several aging nuclear plants.
Nuclear volume is expected to rebound in the summer months to once again take the lead over renewables in energy generation. Further increases in nuclear production may be expected after President Trump announced plans to “revive and expand our nuclear energy sector” in his remarks at the Energy Department’s Unleashing American Energy event on June 29.