US wind and solar together produced more electricity than coal in Q1 2023, according to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report (with data through March 31, 2023) reveals that in the first quarter of 2023, electrical generation by solar (including small-scale distributed systems) grew by 7.8%, compared to the same period in 2022. This was driven in large part by growth in “estimated” small-scale (e.g., rooftop) solar PV, which increased in output by 24.0% – faster than any other energy source – and accounted for nearly one-third (32.8%) of total solar production.
The mix of utility-scale and small-scale solar PV plus utility-scale solar thermal provided 4.4% of the US’s electrical output during the first quarter of 2023.
At the same time, electrical generation by wind increased by 5.3% compared to the same period a year ago and provided 12.5% of total US electrical generation.
Together, wind and solar provided 16.9% of the US’s electrical output in Q1 2023.
However, electrical generation by coal plummeted by 28.6% and provided just 15.6% of total US electrical generation during the quarter. In March alone, US wind turbines produced almost as much electricity (44,355 gigawatt-hours) as coal (49,863 GWh).
When generation by all renewable energy sources (including biomass, geothermal, and hydropower) is considered, renewables accounted for 24.9% of total generation in the first three months of this year. That’s higher than their share (24.2%) in the first quarter of 2022, notwithstanding declines in production by hydropower (down 15.5%), wood + biomass (down 6.2% ), and geothermal (down 3.6%).
Thus, electricity generated by the full mix of renewable energy sources exceeded that of coal by 59.5%.
SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong said:
Renewables have been outproducing coal … for some time now, with the combination of just wind and solar already ahead of coal this year …
Renewables also seem well-positioned to provide over a quarter of the nation’s electrical generation in 2023.
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