Power to the People! Renewable Energy in the U.S.A.

by John Brian Shannon – Originally posted at JBSNews.com

U.S. renewable energy has made impressive strides in recent years

“According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy, solar power employs more people than coal, oil and gas combined.

Last year, solar power accounted for 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce, while fossil fuels combined employed 22 percent. The statistic will be welcomed with open arms by those trying to refute Donald Trump’s assertion that renewable energy projects are bad news for the U.S. economy.

Around 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, according to the report while generation through fossil fuels had a workforce of just over 187,000. The solar boom can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity.

The report states that the employment gap is actually growing with net coal generation decreasing 53 percent over the last 10 years. During the same period of time, electricity generation through gas expanded 33 percent while solar went up by an impressive 5,000 percent.”Niall McCarthy | Statista

Renewable Energy | Solar power now employs more people in the U.S. than coal, oil and gas combined according to a new U.S. Department of Energy report.
U.S. employment by energy generation source in 2016. Find more statistics at Statista

Solar Power and Wind Power combine to provide 475,545 U.S. jobs — while Nuclear Power and Fossil Fuel Power generation combine to provide only 255,293 U.S. jobs — but in recent years the Fossil Fuel industry gets 4 times more subsidy than Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy = Clean Air and Twice as many Jobs on 1/4 the Subsidy!

Here is a look at historical U.S. federal subsidies paid from 1918 to 2009 for various energy producers.

Renewable Energy vs. Non-renewable energy subsidies in the U.S.A.
Cumulative U.S. Federal Energy Subsidies from 1918 – 2009 | What Would Jefferson Do?

What Do Americans Think About Fossil Fuel vs. Renewable Energy?

Solar power and wind power (alone!) employ almost twice as many Americans as all nuclear and all fossil fuel power plants combined, but renewable energy gets only one-quarter of the subsidies in from 2010 onward.

Which might be a factor in the minds of Americans who look forward to renewable energy meeting their future energy demand.

Renewable Energy | Fossil Fuels are Falling Out of Favor in the U.S.
Percentage of U.S. adults who favor/oppose expanding these energy sources. Find more statistics at Statista

Renewable Energy Continues to Grow in the U.S.

This renewable energy statistic represents the cumulative non-hydropower renewable capacity in the United States from 2008 to 2016, by technology.
Cumulative non-hydropower renewable capacity growth in the U.S. from 2008 to 2016. Find more statistics at Statista

Despite the low subsidy amounts paid to renewable energy in the United States, non-hydropower energy continues on its growth trajectory and it’s now cheaper to build new solar capacity, than to build new coal capacity.

New Solar Now Cheaper Than New Coal

Costs for new solar power plants continue to plummet (without subsidy) vs. new coal power plants (with a small subsidy) is reflected in the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) per Kilowatt Hour price.

“As early as 2018, solar could be economically viable to power big cities. By 2040 over half of all electricity may be generated in the same place it’s used. Centralised, coal-fired power is over.”Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete — The Guardian

Billions of Gallons of Water Used Monthly by Conventional Energy

Renewable Energy vs. non-renewable energy by water consumption.
Renewable Energy vs. Non-renewable Energy by water consumption. Image courtesy of climaterealityproject.org

Many coal-fired power plants and several nuclear power plants produce well over 1000MW (1 GW) of electricity and it is easy to extrapolate their water usage.

For instance, a 1.6 GigaWatt(GW) coal-fired power plant (for the purposes of this discussion there’s a 1.6GW coal-fired power plant in Texas) uses 1,760,000 gallons of water per hour, while an equivalent-sized nuclear power plant uses 1,280,000 gallons of water per hour.

Meanwhile, a natural-gas-fired power plant producing the same 1.6GW of electricity would consume 480,000 gallons per hour, while a 1.6GW solar or wind power would consume zero gallons per hour.

Of course hydro-power does not consume any water during its decades of reliable power production, water merely falls through turbines and back into the river a bit further downstream — although during the construction of the dam, spillways, and hydro-electric turbine rooms, millions of gallons of water are used to make the concrete.

The Future of Energy in the United States

Renewable generation capacity expected to account for most 2016 capacity additions in the U.S.

The chart below shows just how much wind power in the United States has grown in recent years.

Renewable Energy | U.S. Wind Power Generation Capacity Surpasses Hydropower Capacity in 2016. Image courtesy of EIA
U.S. Wind Power Capacity Surpasses Hydropower Capacity in 2016. Image courtesy of EIA

The chart below shows the expected growth of solar photovoltaic power in the United States (does not include solar thermal)

Renewable Energy | U.S. Solar Power Installations Photovoltaic 2010 to 2020. Image courtesy of GreenTech Media and Solar Energy Industry Association.
U.S. Solar PV Power Installations 2010 to 2020. Image courtesy of GreenTech Media and Solar Energy Industry Association.

The chart below displays total utility-scale capacity additions from 2010 to 2016. For the third consecutive year, more than half of the capacity additions are renewable technologies, especially wind and solar.

A Majority of Energy Capacity Additions in 2016 Will Be Renewable Energy in the United States -- EIA
A Majority of U.S. Energy Capacity Additions in 2016 will be Renewables. — EIA

From 2013 through 2040, U.S. electricity demand is expected to grow approximately 1 trillion kiloWatt hours(kWh) with natural gas and renewable energy showing steady growth, while coal-fired power generation and nuclear power show slight declines according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Renewable Energy vs. Non-renewable energy demand. Image courtesy of the U.S. EIA
Renewable Energy vs. Non-renewable energy demand. Image courtesy of the U.S. EIA

If the United States converted their existing coal-fired power generation to natural gas by 2020, the U.S. could easily meet every international and domestic clean air target until 2050 as coal burns 10,000 times ‘dirtier’ (anthracite, or black coal) to 1,000,000 times ‘dirtier’ (lignite, or brown coal) when compared to natural gas.

Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal — Harvard Medicine

It goes without saying that if the United States replaced coal-fired power generation with renewable energy, it would surpass every U.S. international and domestic clean air target, lower U.S. heathcare and infrastructure spending by billions of dollars annually, save the U.S. billions of gallons of fresh water per month, provide millions of good-paying jobs for American workers — and prove the United States is still an exceptional power in the 21st-century. Not bad!

Wind Turbines Save the Galápagos Islands

The Wind Turbines Saving the Galápagos Islands

Charles Darwin made the Galápagos Islands synonymous with the idea of change as a means of survival. In the 19th century, the scientist marveled at how similar endemic finches, mockingbirds and giant tortoises across the 19-island archipelago were uniquely adapted to individual islands and later theorized that this ability to adapt determines whether a species will survive long term.

Between 2007 and 2015, three 157-foot wind turbines have supplied, on average, 30 percent of the electricity consumed on San Cristóbal, replacing 2.3 million gallons of diesel fuel and avoiding 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions…

Wind Turbines in the Galápagos Islands
Responding to the call for the introduction of renewable-based energy on the Galapagos Islands, the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP) developed and implemented Ecuador’s first large-scale wind project on the Island of San Cristóbal and one of the largest wind-diesel hybrid systems in the world. The 2.4 MW wind park features three wind turbines, each generating 800 kW to provide approximately one-third of the island’s annual electricity needs. The wind park is complemented by two 6 kW photovoltaic systems which have produced 136,000 kWh of electricity. The grid-connected system has been operated by EOLIC S.A., the Galapagos Wind Company, since 2007. Image and caption courtesy of GlobalElectricity.org

Continue reading Wind Turbines Save the Galápagos Islands

COP21 Paris – un Succès!

COP21 Paris: “What was once unthinkable is now unstoppable.” #ClimateChange #ClimateAction — United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon

COP21 Paris: “195 nations have risen to the challenge of climate change.”   — UNFCCC


The COP21 Paris 2015 deal attempts to limit global atmospheric temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius and the measures adopted in the agreement included provisions for reviewing progress every five years, and for $100 billion dollars a year in climate finance for developing countries.

COP21 Paris logo
COP21 Paris negotiators have successfully concluded their Paris meeting setting a global warming limit of 2 degrees celsius via a landmark climate change accord. Image courtesy of COP21 Paris

After difficult two week-long COP21 negotiations, representatives of 195 countries of the world reached a unanimous landmark climate change accord in Paris. The historical climate deal for the first time made all the nations of the world to commit to cut greenhouse gas emissions to help reduce disastrous global warming effects. The deal is partly legally… Continue reading COP21 Paris – un Succès!

Coal is Not the Answer to Energy Poverty and Here’s Why

Coal is Not the Answer to Energy Poverty and Here’s Why

by Kevin Grandin

The end of dirty power generation is a certainty, the only variable is the timing. The sooner the better for this planet. – Editor
coal fired power generation
Dirty power generation must soon end if we are to mitigate global warming, lower healthcare costs and increase quality of life for humankind. Image Credit Alfred Palmer

Worldwide, the coal industry is suffering as the demand for its product weakens in the face of a surge in clean, renewable energy options and a world that can no longer afford to continue to consume this dirty fossil fuel. To deal with this decline in revenue, some coal companies like Peabody Energy are spending millions… Continue reading Coal is Not the Answer to Energy Poverty and Here’s Why

Apple Announces 2.2 GW Clean Energy Project in China

Apple’s latest clean energy initiatives include various solar power projects and partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to protect one million acres of Chinese forestland

Apple announces major clean energy projects in China October, 2015.
Apple Inc. announces major clean energy initiatives in China that complement a series of global commitments the company announced earlier this year. Image Credit: Flickr via Miguel Garces

Corporate sustainability is a field that demands a forward-thinking mentality and creative solutions to preserve the planet. For very large global companies, sustainability should be more about developing an ability to scale change far beyond their own organization. Apple is focusing on this larger role with the launch of two major clean energy projects aimed at… Continue reading Apple Announces 2.2 GW Clean Energy Project in China