For each month this year, renewable energy production in the U.S. has exceeded the same months in all previous years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That achievement is particularly notable because it happened in spite of below-average hydroelectric output caused by drought along the West Coast.
The data runs through June and it counts utility-scale wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass plants with capacity greater than 1 megawatt, as well as distributed solar resources like rooftop installations.
The non-hydro renewables were clearly above the range of non-hydro production from previous years, and have passed hydro production this year, too.
Rookie renewables gradually catching up to the reigning champion. Hydropower has produced 85 percent of cumulative renewable energy in the U.S. for the past 65 years, but hasn’t added significant new capacity for about 20 years. It now produces 6 percent of U.S. electricity; wind yields 4.7 percent and solar clocks in at 0.6 percent
Wind added about 13 gigawatts in 2012 alone, and wind and solar collectively supplied the majority of new capacity built in the U.S. last year. Non-hydro renewables topped 10 percent of monthly U.S. production for the first time in March of this year, and did so again in April, according to the EIA. That’s easier to do when there isn’t huge demand for heating and cooling, so overall load is low. Nonetheless, the signs are pointing to a reshuffling in the rank order of contributors to the American grid.