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Wind, solar rising as crucial energy sources in U.S. and globally

Both are fastest growing energy sources across the world, agencies say

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
August 29, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 34

Renewable energy—particularly wind and solar—is continuing a rapid expansion and is becoming a key source of electricity in the U.S. and globally, say recent reports.

A new analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds a shift in domestic renewable energy sources in recent years. Traditionally, hydroelectric dams and other renewable electricity generation technologies based on gravity-pulled water have been the main source of renewable energy.

But today, electrical output from nonhydropower sources—primarily wind and solar, but also biomass and geothermal—exceeds output from hydropower sources. For instance, EIA found that, in March and April of 2016, nonhydropower renewable electricity generation was more than 10% of the total mix of all U.S. electricity sources.

This trend is global. Wind and solar are the fastest-growing energy sources throughout the world, according to the International Energy Agency.

The international group warns about difficulties merging these sources with their variable output into existing electrical grids, however. In a recent report, IEA presents operating strategies to more easily integrate and deploy these variable output energy sources, such as better weather and energy-demand forecasting, power plant scheduling, and energy storage.


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