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Renewable Energy Production Surpasses Nuclear In the US 452

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-celebrate-with-a-ride-in-the-suv dept.
mdsolar writes "Renewable energy production has surpassed nuclear energy production in the U.S. according to the latest issue of Monthly Energy Review (PDF) published by the Energy Information Administration. ... During the first three months of 2011, energy produced from renewable energy sources (biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, hydro, wind) generated 2.245 quadrillion Btus of energy equating to 11.73 percent of U.S. energy production. During this same time period, renewable energy production surpassed nuclear energy power by 5.65 percent. In total, energy produced from renewables is 77.15 percent of that from domestic crude oil production."
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Renewable Energy Production Surpasses Nuclear In the US

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  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @10:10PM (#36668086)
    Since solar-caused skin cancer kills more people every year than leaks from nuclear energy plants does.
    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @10:21PM (#36668162) Homepage

      And don't forget that wind energy is blowing Earth off its orbit [theonion.com].

  • Hydro-electric!

    check out all that flooding!

    • by Bengie (1121981)

      Hydro.. produces more greenhouse gases than coal.

      P.S. the methane produced by biomass at the bottom of the water reserve is much more effective at warming than CO2

      • by Flyerman (1728812)

        Think long term buddy. What causes hydro's greenhouse gases? In year 10-20 of a dam's lifetime, what causes hydro's greenhouse gases?

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          Plant matter decaying, but that depends on the environment. Let me quote Wikipedia, because I'm lazy:

          "In boreal reservoirs of Canada and Northern Europe, however, greenhouse gas emissions are typically only 2% to 8% of any kind of conventional fossil-fuel thermal generation. A new class of underwater logging operation that targets drowned forests can mitigate the effect of forest decay."

          Of course, there's a fixed amount of plant matter that can decay; over the long term, I imagine the methane production bec

    • There are dams that do both power generation and flood control. But much of flood control infrastructure does not generate electricity. When there is flooding, usually extreme weather is to blame and it is the non-generating levies that give way.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how much of that biomass consists of wood-burning stoves. Considering the time period of this study (first three months of this year) that could definitely be a large factor.

    EDIT: A quick look at the PDF shows that biomass is the largest renewable energy source, at 1.049 quadrillion BTUs. It even beat out hydropower at 0.618 quadrillion BTUs. However, a look at 2009 and 2010 does not show a seasonal variation that you would expect from wood stoves.

  • Btus? Can't we just stick to standards?

    Kilo/Mega/Giga/Tera Watt hours in this case.

    • Btus? Can't we just stick to standards?

      Kilo/Mega/Giga/Tera Watt hours in this case.

      Joules.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Watt-hours is at least as much a bastardization as BTUs. It's actually worse, because it wasn't a standard prior to Joules. BTU at least has the seniority aspect going for it. Watt-hours just looks good on an electric bill.

      • by Bengie (1121981)

        Watt hours aren't worse than Joules. A joule is a watt-second of energy.

        What would you rather see on your electric bill, 1KW/h = $0.10 or 1J = $0.00002777777~

        Have fun doing that math in your head. Only a person who loves making thing harder than they need to be would use joules for every-day power usage.

        BTUs aren't any better. I got a device that uses 5 amps and runs 110v. Without using any unit conversions, how much energy is used? Who the #$%^ want to multiple 5 * 10 * 3.41214, when they can just do

    • Btus? Can't we just stick to standards?

      In the United States the standard IS BTUs.

    • by goodmanj (234846)

      Handy conversion fact: 1 quadrillion BTUs (the units in TFA) is almost exactly equal to 1 exajoule.

  • Hydro? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @10:21PM (#36668168)

    Hydroelectric has been a big part of the US electric grid for the better part of a century now (Roll on, Columbia roll on). I realize it's "renewable", but lumping it in with the newer renewables (biodiesel, wind, et. al.) - the electric production of which is miniscule compared to that of hydro - and then pretending it's us making strides towards a great green future is a tad misleading.

    • Re:Hydro? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:41PM (#36668640) Homepage Journal

      Note that they are also lumping in ethanol, which has already been shown to require more fossil fuel to produce that it can replace (or close to it, depending on the way it's calculated. And ethanol is 10% of all the fuel in all the cars, and is heavily supported by subsidies, so it's not only inefficient, but can't even pay for itself.

    • Re:Hydro? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ildon (413912) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @01:11AM (#36669102)

      Not to mention that no new nuclear power plants have been allowed for like 4 years, so nearly all our increased demand since then has been met by non-renewable natural gas and coal. This milestone is fucking meaningless. Wake me up when it surpasses coal.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @10:28PM (#36668216)

    "Notwithstanding the recent nuclear accident in Japan, among many others, and the rapid growth in energy and electricity from renewable sources, congressional Republicans continue to press for more nuclear energy funding while seeking deep cuts in renewable energy investments," said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "One has to wonder 'what are these people thinking?'"

    I have to wonder what he's thinking, because the best solution to US energy needs looking forward involves expansion of nuclear power as well as renewables. We still haven't really made a dent in the roughly half of US electricity production that comes from coal. And that huge base load need isn't going to be solved by intermittent power sources like solar or wind. Underfunding nuclear power development will only result in delays in bringing up safer newer plant designs.

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @10:57PM (#36668412) Journal

      This is mdsolar - check his comment history, and pay attention to the link in the sig. He runs a company which installs solar panels, so he's not exactly an impartial figure. I'm surprised you haven't seen him before, since he pops up in pretty much every story about nuclear with similarly misleading comments.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dasher42 (514179)

      Obsolete information. People are largely unaware of the full gamut of renewable energy technologies. Even so, the Department of Energy did an extensive study that said that Texas, Kansas, and North Dakota could supply the country's full energy needs from wind energy alone, but we're not just talking solar panels and turbines.

      We could slash building energy requirements drastically: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_solar_building_design [wikipedia.org]
      Move to peer-to-peer microgrids which by the redundancy of many div

  • by AlienIntelligence (1184493) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @10:34PM (#36668268)

    Ok, wow... did I miss it, or did they completely avoid using any
    real numbers, that could be tallied and put in a spreadsheet?

    Everything seemed to be something of something else.

    RTFA is a horrible idea. RTFPDF, well, that's up to you, it's
    214 pages long.

    Anyone rationalize those numbers out yet?

    -AI

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      The PDF linked in the summary is one page - a single table, with energy sources as columns (with tallies for fossil fuels and renewable sources), and years as rows. It doesn't get much simpler. Feel free to number-crunch at your own convenience.

      • "It doesn't get much simpler."

        Oh, the chart itself is simple. The problem is, it's incomplete info without much context.

        You have to go to the EIA.gov web site and look at other tables than the one linked to find out that the big part of biomass used is wood.

        That's been fairly steady for decades. A lot of that is paper and forestry products burning the waste wood to power their plants, and ignorant rural rednecks like me stoking up the fireplace among other things. (Gotta power those moonshine stills with so

    • by PMuse (320639)

      Mod parent up! Only a partisan would measure a nation's annual energy consumption in "quadrillion Btus". It's like measuring an oil spill in pints.

      This is slashdot. Around here, you can't conflate percent of "domestic crude oil production" with "percent of U.S. energy production" (let alone consumption!) and not get called on it. Can you?

      Ah, heck with it! Let's slip down to the pub for 2.98 millibarrels of domestic light sweet lager.

  • Great, but ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @10:57PM (#36668402)

    This sounds like great news for renewable energy buffs, except for one thing: if you're thinking this represents a success by high tech new power sources like wind, solar, etc., you're wrong.

    The two biggest components of "renewable energy" in EIA's report are hydroelectric dams and biomass -- the biomass sector is mostly industrial wood and paper plants which run on waste wood, plus people using wood-fired stoves at home. Good for them, but it's not exactly high tech.

    In 1990, before the wind-and-solar revolution, things broke down this way:
    Nuclear: 6.1 exajoules
    Hydro+biomass: 5.7 EJ
    Wind+solar: .09 EJ

    In 2000:
    Nuclear: 7.8 EJ
    Hydro+biomass: 5.8 EJ
    Wind+solar: 0.12 EJ

    In 2010:
    Nuclear: 8.4 EJ
    Hydro+biomass: 6.8 EJ
    Wind+solar: 1.03 EJ

    Or to put it another way: The "wind and solar revolution" that's taken place in the past 20 years now produces 1 EJ of energy per year. The nuclear power industry has managed to increase output by *twice* as much, without building a single new power plant, just running existing plants a little harder.

    This isn't intended to support nuclear power or to knock renewables. My only point is that wind and solar are much less significant than people on both sides of the debate think they are, and if we intend to use them as serious industrial power sources, we're going to have to start building them in a serious industrial way. What we're doing now is making a mountain out of a molehill.

    • No new plants to speak of so really what we are seeing is decades of overcapacity in nuclear power, basically waste of capacity since nuclear power is supposed to be baseload. And this is really what killed the nuclear construction industry in the eighties. Bad planning. http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/06/25/244122/three-mile-island-accident-nuclear-power/ [thinkprogress.org]
      • by goodmanj (234846)

        I think "overcapacity" is a useless term when you're dealing with energy. Supply creates demand and vice versa, and too much is never enough. The only important question is *profitability*, but the nuclear industry is such a tangled mess of hidden government subsidies and buried external costs that figuring that out is a nightmare.

        • by mdsolar (1045926)
          Actually, a lot of plants were never completed owing to bad demand projections. Money was sunk but it never ever paid back. So, overcapacity does mean something.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @12:11AM (#36668830)

        Not exactly. Since TMI, domestic construction of new nuclear power plants has ground to a halt here in the US. Since building a new plant hasn't been politically feasible, operators have learned how to squeeze every joule out of the existing fleet. Steam generator upgrades and thermal power uprates have increased the fleet's output substantially. Taking fuel to higher burnups through better in-core fuel management has allowed operators to squeeze a bit more energy from the fuel bundles. But mostly, plant operators have pretty much perfected the art of running a light water reactor. Capacity factors (the percent of time that the plant is operating and generating power) averaged around 75% or so in the US back in the 1970s. Last year it was more like 91%. That's like getting a few reactors "for free."

        It's not that operators in the 1970s were incompetent, it's that we've been continuously raising the performance bar. Par for the course is 90%+ capacity factors these days -- totally unheard of, and deemed impossible back then.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      The two biggest components of "renewable energy" in EIA's report are hydroelectric dams and biomass -- the biomass sector is mostly industrial wood and paper plants which run on waste wood, plus people using wood-fired stoves at home. Good for them, but it's not exactly high tech.

      And not always "renewable" either. If you don't replant the woods, or use chemicals from non-renewable sources or burn coal to create ethanol from maize, it's not really renewable except in the eyes of politicians and the producers who bought them.

      Then there's the whole CO2 question - you get less emissions from gasoline than from US maize based ethanol. But you get more votes from farmers and more contributions from Monsanto [opensecrets.org] by choosing maize over real renewable energy.

  • According to every source on the internet the US produces [grist.org]
    ~20% of it's energy from nuclear [mapawatt.com]. My own power company says it is 33% with 8% renewable (mostly wood burning).

    So why does the linked article show US nuclear at 8%? Something is amiss here.

    My guess is that we shut down a bunch of nuclear plants for upgrades as a result of Fukushima just long enough for a statistician to claim we reached some meaningless milestone.

  • by yarnosh (2055818) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @12:17AM (#36668872)

    Why are they comparing the production of ethanol (48% of "renewables") with nuclear? That doesn't make any sense. Nuclear is for electricity. Ethanol fuels cars. And what happens when they factor in all the petroleum used to produce all that ethanol. Last I checked, ethanol barely breaks even. Woops! And what would it even say if the comparison was meaningful? That people are scared of nuclear? No surprise there.

    And then they go to compare "renewables" with domestic crude oil. First, why just domestic crude? Why not talk about ALL the crude consumed in the US? Why include anything but ethanol in that comparison? What sense does it make to compare hydropower with domestic crude oil? They're totally different markets.

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @01:35AM (#36669182)

    The reason that talk about BTUs is that they are talking about all types of energy consumption even the burning of wood in home stoves. Wood is renewable but produces carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Just because it is renewable does not make it green. Take a look at this http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec7_5.pdf [eia.gov]

    For three months in 2010 Neuclear produced 202,449 Million Kilowatthours. Hydro produced 63,295 MKwhrs. Solar, wind and geothermal combined produced 25,288 MKwhrs.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @03:23AM (#36669520) Homepage

    I really have to wonder if it's even practical to move to an all renewable energy source infrastructure?

    Wind and solar take a LOT of space. As it is, bird people, environmentalists and "I don't want to see it but I want the benefits from it" people don't want wind and solar stuff all over the landscape. Geothermal energy is one usually of opportunity and while technically it's everywhere, tectonically, it's not quite as available everywhere. And hydro electric? Do we have enough rivers?

    And here's a thing -- even if we shut everything down now, we're already past the point of no return where global warming is concerned. We are going to see a continuation of a change in global weather patterns which mean rain, wind and water will all continue to change movement patterns which will transform where farming is done and more. What is a good location today, will not likely be a good location tomorrow and we don't really know yet where the good locations of tomorrow will be.

    We don't need figures saying what we can and are doing today, we need to know if it's even possible to do what we wish for. Can we get 100% clean? If so, how can we do it? Is it sustainable? I'd really like to know.

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