Friday, July 19, 2013

Americans Getting More Of Their Energy From Renewable Sources

An increasing amount of the energy used each year in the US is coming from renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, according to new research released Thursday by scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).
According to the laboratory’s energy charts, wind power led the way, increasing from 1.17 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTU) produced in 2011, called quads for short, to 1.36 quads in 2012. A BTU is a unit of measurement for energy, and LLNL officials note that 3,400 BTU is equivalent to approximately one kilowatt per hour (kW-hr).
“New wind farms continue to come on line with bigger, more efficient turbines that have been developed in response to state government-sponsored incentives to invest in renewable energy,” the laboratory explained in a statement. In addition, solar power increased from 0.158 quads in 2011 to 0.235 quads in 2012, a phenomenon they say was caused by an “extraordinary declines in prices of photovoltaic panels, due to global oversupply.”
Overall, Americans used 2.2 quads less energy in 2012 than they had during the previous year, with the majority of that energy (38.1 quads) being used for electricity generation. Transportation was the second leading energy consumer, followed by industrial, residential and consumption. Energy use decreased in all categories except for industrial energy use, the LLNL researchers reported.
AJ Simon, an energy systems analyst with the laboratory, reported that natural gas use markedly increased in the electricity generation sector, where it has been used basically like a direct replacement for coal. Natural gas use jumped to 26 quads from 24.9
This is the first year in at least a decade where there has been a measurable decrease in nuclear energy. “It is likely to be a permanent cut as four nuclear reactors recently went offline (two units at San Onofre in California as well as the power stations at Kewaunee in Wisconsin and Crystal River in Florida),” Simon noted. “There are a couple of nuclear plants under construction, but they won’t come on for another few years.”