According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), wind and solar combined produced more electricity than coal during the first quarter of 2023 and virtually tied nuclear power in March.
The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report (with data through March 31, 2023) reveals that in the first quarter of this year, 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 (rooftop) solar PV, whose output increased 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 nation’s electrical output during the first three months of 2023.
Simultaneously, electrical generation by wind increased by 5.3% compared to the same period a year ago and provided one-eighth (12.5%) of total U.S. electrical generation. Together, wind and solar provided 16.9% — or over one-sixth — of the nation’s electrical output in the first quarter of 2023.
By comparison, electrical generation by coal plummeted by 28.6% and provided just 15.6% of total U.S. electrical generation during the first quarter. In March alone, the nation’s wind turbines produced almost as much electricity (44,355 GWh) as did coal (49,863 GWh)
For the first quarter, electrical generation by nuclear power dropped by 0.6% and out-produced the combination of wind and solar. However, the wind-solar mix in the month of March alone virtually tied nuclear power: 62,734 GWh vs. 62,820 GWh. The current growth rates of solar and wind suggest they will eventually outpace nuclear power production for part or all of this year, according to the report.
When generation by all renewable energy sources (including biomass, geothermal and hydropower) is considered, renewables accounted for a quarter (24.9%) of total generation in the first three months of this year. That is a higher than their share (24.2%) in the first quarter of 2022 notwithstanding declines in production by hydropower (down 15.5%), wood and biomass (down 6.2% ) and geothermal (down 3.6%).
Thus, electricity generated by the full mix of renewable energy sources exceeded that by coal by 59.5%. Renewable electrical production also surpassed that of nuclear power by 28.2%. Only natural gas — with a 39.3% share of the total — provided more electricity than renewables.
“Renewables have been out-producing coal and nuclear power for some time now with the combination of just wind and solar already ahead of coal this year and about to overtake nuclear power,” said Ken Bossong, the sunlight DAY Project’s executive supervisor. “Renewables likewise appear well-positioned to give over a quarter of the country’s electric generation in 2023.”
Story from The sunlight DAY Project