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Renewable energy passes nuclear as U.S. power source

Published at: Jan 12, 2012
source: Denver Business Journal

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Renewable energy sources -- wind, water, solar and others -- passed nuclear generation as a share of U.S. power in September, according to the Energy Information Administration.

In the EIA’s latest report on energy sources and usage in the United States, which covers the nine months ended September, the nine-month total for both renewable production and consumption were higher than those for nuclear power.

Colorado has made a major move into alternative energy, particularly solar and wind.

Aurora soon will be the site of a new General Electric Co. manufacturing plant for thin-film solar-power panels, the nation's largest. Loveland-based solar panel maker Abound Solar Inc., which received a $400 million federal Department of Energy loan guarantee in 2010, is doing well. Xcel Energy , Colorado's largest power utility, has invested in wind and solar facilities. And wind turbine maker Vestas has opened factories in the state.

The EIA report showed 6.944 quadrillion Btus, or “quads,” of energy generated from renewable sources in the first nine months of 2011, compared with 6.173 quads from nuclear power.

In the equivalent periods of 2010 and 2009, nuclear power was significantly ahead of renewables. In the first nine months of 2010, for example, nuclear generation produced 6.354 quads, while renewables produced 6.068 quads.

Total energy production in the United States was 58.123 quads in the first nine months of 2011, with most of that -- 45.006 quads -- coming from fossil fuels.

Last year was a tough year for the solar industry, with solar panel maker Solyndra imploding with the loss of more than 1,000 jobs and questions about the huge federal loans it had gotten.

Nevertheless, solar generation continued to grow. Solar thermal and photovoltaic generation produced 87 trillion Btus in the first nine months of 2011, up from 82 trillion Btus in the equivalent period of 2010 and 74 in the first nine months of 2009.

The EIA counts renewable sources as hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, wood burning and biofuels.

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