Utility-scale renewable energy generators produced more electricity than nuclear plants for the first time since July 1984, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Renewable energy generation exceeded nuclear in March and April.
“This outcome reflects both seasonal and trend growth in renewable generation, as well as maintenance and refueling schedules for nuclear plants, which tend to undergo maintenance during spring and fall months, when overall electricity demand is lower than in summer or winter,” according to the EIA. “Record generation from both wind and solar as well as recent increases in hydroelectric power as a result of high precipitation across much of the West over the past winter contributed to the overall rise in renewable electricity generation this spring, while nuclear generation in April was at its lowest monthly level since April 2014.”
In March and April, 14 gigawatts and 21 gigawatts of nuclear capacity were offline, representing 14% and 21% of total nuclear capacity in the United States.
Conventional hydroelectric generation is the largest source of renewable energy in most months, generating 30 billion kilowatt-hours in March, the highest level in almost six years, according to the EIA. In 2017, hydroelectric generation is expected to rise 14% from 2016, “largely because of record precipitation and snowpack in California.”
“Electricity generation from wind and solar has increased as more generating capacity has been installed.” In 2016, more than 60% of all utility-scale capacity that started producing electricity was from wind and solar technologies. In March, wind generation rose 16% from the same month in 2016, and solar generation increased 65% over the same period. In April, solar generation continued to rise, but wind generation declined slightly.
For 2017, wind generation is expected to increase 8%, and solar generation is projected to rise 40%. While renewable energy generation has been rising, nuclear generation has been flat since the late 1990s. Nuclear energy is expected to surpass renewable energy in the summer months of 2017, according to EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook.