Environment + Energy: Wind, Solar Power Help Grow US Renewable Energy Use

Environment + Energy: Wind, Solar Power Help Grow US Renewable Energy Use

Led by wind power production and the increasing growth of solar, use of renewable energy in the United States hit all-time highs in the first half of 2021, according to new data released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Yet fossil fuels still dominate as the country’s primary energy source.

Wind is now the largest renewable energy source in the US, accounting for 28% of the total renewable energy output in the country, according to the EIA’s Monthly Energy Review. Use of solar power grew by the largest rate over the period, expanding by 24%. The US Department of Energy says continued growth in solar could mean half the nation’s power supply could be provided by the energy source by 2050. Wind energy grew by nearly 10% and biofuels were up 6.5%.

Energy produced by fossil fuels was down slightly but still accounted for 79% of US use, according to the EIA, which includes data through the end of June. Fossil fuel consumption during the first half of 2021 increased by 6.5% compared to the same period in 2020, including a nearly 30% increase in the use of coal. The EIA says carbon emissions from energy also rose almost 8%.

“The continued dominance of U.S. energy production and use by fossil fuels and the corresponding rise in CO2 emissions is alarming,” says SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “Fortunately, renewable energy sources are slowly expanding their share of the energy market.”

Despite the remaining high use of fossil fuels, the EIA predicted earlier in 2021 that renewables will increase electricity generation in the US by as much as 50% by 2050 and that the growth will be spurred by solar power additions.

According to the EIA report, renewable energy sources accounted for 13% of the energy produced in the US. That includes energy for electricity and transportation among other uses. Renewable energy production over this time was 6.2 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), 3% more than the same period of 2020 and 4% higher than in 2019.

Biomass follows wind power with 21% of the US renewable energy output, with hydropower (nearly 20%), biofuels (17%) and solar power (12%) also providing significant renewable sources.

In the US industry accounts for a third of the country’s energy use, according to the EIA. Manufacturing makes up 77% of that total.