U.S. solar, wind energy use on the rise

A new report from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) notes that solar and wind energy had a banner year in the United States in 2017, with more residents using renewables than the previous year.

This news came paired with the assessment that, overall, the United States actually consumed less energy in both the residential and commercial sectors. Of the energy used, solar accounted for 32 percent, due to the creation of more large-scale solar farms and a 19 percent increase of small-scale rooftop systems in residential markets.

“These rates of growth are due to continued low prices for panels, economies of scale in installations and favorable policies for renewable energy,” A.J. Simon, associate program leader for LLNL’s water security and technologies, said.

Wind was up as well, though not by nearly as much. It rose a more modest 11 percent, building on factors that have driven it higher for the past 10 years, such as the increasingly cheaper cost of turbines, their increasing size and favorable renewable energy policies. Even hydroelectricity rose by 0.29 quadrillion British Thermal Units or BTUs.

Meanwhile, the traditional fossil fuels were down over the same period. Natural gas capacity was up, but decreased electricity demand and the growth in renewables meant that less natural gas was actually used. Coal continues a downward slope with more plants taken offline as a result of their high costs and growing recognition of environmental impact.