U.S. wind power sets electricity production record

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As E&E journalist Ben Storrow noted and the EIA confirmed it, wind turbines last Tuesday generated more than 2,000 gigawatt hours of electricity, outpacing nuclear and coal-generated electricity (but still lagging behind natural gas).

Last year, wind was the fourth-largest source of electricity behind natural gas, coal and nuclear, generating nearly 380 terawatt hours for the entire year, according to the EIA. For context, a terawatt is a thousand times larger than a gigawatt.

One major milestone aside, wind power in the United States still lags behind a European country that recently broke its own record: Germany.

Although the United States has more wind capacity in numbers – it is a larger country with a larger population – Germany surpasses the United States in the amount of electricity it draws from the wind. In February alone, wind turbines in Germany generated a record 20.6 terawatt hours of wind power, Rystad Energy reported on Tuesdaywhich accounted for 45% of its total energy in February.

In 2020 – the most recent year for which the EIA has solid statistics – Germany got 24% of its electricity from wind, compared to 8% in the United States.

“Europe and Germany in particular have developed significant wind power over the past decade,” said Fabian Rønningen, electricity markets analyst at independent energy company Rystad.

And the bigger picture shows that the United States lags behind Europe in its renewable energy capacity.

In 2020, the EU and UK combined had the capacity to generate around 49% of their electricity from renewables, almost double the 25% of the US, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
With more than 100 offshore and onshore wind projects planned in the pipeline, President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to make up for lost ground in the wind power game. The administration has set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power alone.

The EIA projects that the United States will bring an additional 7.6 gigawatts of utility-scale wind power online this year, as well as 21.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar power. Last month, for example, the Traverse Wind Farm in Oklahoma brought nearly a gigawatt of new energy online.

The US milestone comes as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that wind and solar have significantly lowered their costs and are now economically viable alternatives to fossil fuels. Scientists have warned that the world must quickly switch to renewable energy and move away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

“We can no longer run our fossil fuel-based infrastructure the way we used to,” climate researcher and report lead author Jan Christoph Minx told a news conference. “The big message that comes from here is that we have to end the age of fossil fuels. And we not only need to end it, but we have to end it very quickly.”



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