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EIA data shows U.S. solar generation increased 25% in first quarter of 2021

Written by: Leonard Parker | Solar News | 26th May

Q1 data just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that solar and wind increased by 24.3% and 10.5%, respectively, for electrical output. Combined, solar and wind grew by 13.6% and accounted for more than one-eighth (12.8%) of U.S. electrical generation.

Credit: Rosendin

In March 2021 alone, solar and wind’s output was 34.4% greater than a year earlier. This is all according to analysis by the SUN DAY Campaign.

Other renewable energies saw their output fall in Q1 2021: hydropower (down by 7.5%), biomass (down 3.6%), and geothermal (down 1.5%). Non-hydro renewable generation still increased by 11.2% during the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. And generation by all renewables, including hydropower, grew by 4.4% compared to the previous year. Renewables’ share of the nation’s electrical generation for the first quarter was 21.6% — up from 21.2% a year earlier.

By comparison, electrical generation by natural gas during the quarter fell by 10.5% — and by 14.8% in March alone — thereby further reducing its lead over renewables. Natural gas’ share of the nation’s electrical generation during the first quarter of 2020 was 39.2%. A year later, it had diminished to 34.3% while the renewables’ share has inched up.

In addition, electrical output by the nation’s nuclear reactors decreased by 2.8% during the quarter, enabling renewables to further expand their lead. Collectively, renewables outpaced nuclear power during both the first quarter of 2021 and the month of March alone by 8.7% and 26.2% respectively.

On the other hand, coal made a strong come-back, growing 34.8% compared to the first quarter of 2020. Coal’s rebound may prove to be fleeting, though. Electrical generation by coal during the first quarter exceeded that of all renewable sources combined by 7.4%. However, by March, renewables had bounced back and eclipsed coal’s output for the month by 29.6%.

“The continued strong growth by wind and solar affirms that the Biden Administration’s clean energy goals are within reach,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “Renewables are now on track to provide at least a quarter of the nation’s electricity within five years and, with additional support, considerably more.”

News item from SUN DAY