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Renewables Rising: Wind, Solar, Geothermal, and Biomass Will Top Hydropower in 2014

Wind, solar, geothermal and biomass are surpassing hydropower as the dominant form of renewable electricity. And according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the crossover is expected to last the rest of 2014 and beyond.

April was the eighth consecutive month that nonhydro renewable generation exceeded hydropower, according to EIA. Nonhydro resources also include geothermal and biomass, although wind and solar dominate the growth in renewables.

The picture is not the same nationwide. In the Pacific Northwest and New York, for example, hydropower still reigns. But in many regions, including California and the Midwest, wind and solar are playing a far larger role and some hydropower resources are shrinking in drought-stricken regions.

Most of the growth in renewables is due to renewable portfolio standards and tax credits. Distributed generation is increasingly competing on a cost basis, although the EIA data only reflects electricity generation over 1 megawatt. For many states, renewable portfolio standards do not include large hydro resources and some do not include any hydropower.

The first time nonhydro generation exceeded hydropower was nearly two years ago in October 2012, but that was a momentary blip. Although hydro could overtake other renewables during its high seasons, EIA is forecasting that 2014 will be the first year that nonhydro renewables will surpass hydropower in terms of generation.

Once other renewable technologies take the lead, they will hold on tight. EIA’s reference case, which is one of the more conservative in terms of renewable projections, sees nonhydro renewables growing on average at about 3.2 percent per year through 2040.

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Katherine Tweed's picture

Thank Katherine for the Post!

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Bill Woods's picture
Bill Woods on Aug 5, 2014 6:47 pm GMT

“Wind, solar, geothermal and biomass are surpassing hydropower as the dominant form of renewable electricity.”

Lumping four different things together and calling them “the” dominant energy source seems more than a little misleading. Eyeballing the last graph,

Hydro: 300 TW-h/yr

Wind: 250 TW-h/yr

Bio: 150 TW-h/yr

Solar: 100 TW-h/yr

Geo: 75 TW-h/yr

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