Blowing away dirty energy: Wind to pass hydro as top renewable in 2019


Mulan wind farm [CREDIT: Global Climate Budget 2018]

Mulan wind farm [CREDIT: Global Climate Budget 2018]

For electric-car drivers looking to emit less pollution as the drive, 2019 could be a banner year.

The U.S. electric grid has been getting gradually greener as utilities replace coal fired powerplants with primarily wind and natural gas.

That trend is due to reach a tipping point in 2019, according to numbers by the Energy Information Agency at the U.S. Department of Energy.

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In 2019, that surge in wind power is set to surpass the nation's longstanding renewable mainstay, hydroelectric power.

Wind power, which only started making up a significant portion of U.S. electricity generation this century, is set to increase by 30 percent, making up almost 8 percent of total U.S electrical generation by the end of 2019 and 9 percent in 2020, up from 6 percent in 2017, according to the EIA numbers.

That represents an increase from 96 gigawatts of power, to 107 gigawatts by the end of 2019, and to 114 gigawatts forecast by the end of 2020.

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Most of the wind power in the U.S. is produced in the Midwest, where the electric grid was is still fairly heavily dependent on coal power, and in Texas.

Hydroelectric power, a renewable that the EIA points out has a 100-year head start, has seen very slow growth, as permitting requirements have grown stricter in an effort to protect fish and other wildlife. Hydro made up about 7.4 percent of electricity production in the U.S. in 2017.

Solar is growing even faster, expected to rise 29 percent by 2020. In 2017 it accounted for only 1.3 percent of total electricity generation, which is expected to reach about 1.7 percent in that time frame.

 
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