America’s renewable energy usage set to surpass coal production for the first time ever
- Coal is falling out of favor as renewable energy poises to surpass it this month
- While solar and wind energy use rise, coal has steadily declined over the decade
- Expert say renewables will soon pass coal in energy production this month
In the U.S., coal-fired power is running out of steam as renewable energy is poised to eclipse the amount of energy produced by coal plants.
A report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), has projected that as of this month, power derived from hydro, biomass, wind, solar and geothermal, will generate more energy than traditional coal-powered plants.
Should that occur, it would mark a first for the renewable energy sector.
A report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), has projected that as of this month, power derived from hydro, biomass, wind, solar and geothermal, will generate more energy than traditional coal-powered plants
IEEFA says the trend could potentially extend into the month of May, in a promising signal for renewable energy adoption.
This trend will happen sporadically throughout the next several years, says the IEEFA, as renewable energy becomes cheaper and the world’s attention focuses on mitigating the effects of carbon-fueled climate change by turning away from fossil fuels.
Growth in both solar and wind power has been particularly stark with the former producing 48 times more electricity than it did a decade ago due to cheaper equipment and government incentives.
Though renewable energy is aided in its displacement of coal by a seasonal dip in the resource’s usage – coal plants typically decrease output in Spring as energy consumption decelerates and some plants shut down for maintenance – the positive trend is significant, especially when factoring in a struggling coal industry.
Coupled with a rise in renewables has been a diametric trend of declining coal consumption. Last year, coal hit a nearly 40-year low in terms of proportional usage in the U.S.
Coal has fallen out of favor in part due to decreasing costs of natural gas.
Renewable energy has closed the gap on coal which has fallen out of favor throughout the last several decades. However, they still constitute a relatively small portion of U.S. production
In 2016, coal was dethroned as the America’s fuel of choice by natural gas, a feat aided in part by a thriving hydro-fracking industry that continues to pump abundant fossil fuels
In 2016, coal was dethroned as the America’s fuel of choice by natural gas, a feat aided in part by a thriving hydro-fracking industry that continues to pump abundant fossil fuels out of the Bakken Oil Shale in North Dakota.
The decline has continued even despite renewed interest from President Donald Trump in reinvigorating the coal industry.
Even with the rapid ingress of renewable energy, solar, wind, and hydroelectric still constitute a relatively small portion of U.S. production.
According to the Energy Information Administration, renewable energy supplies about 11 percent of America’s energy while fossil fuels supply 80 percent.
With the decline of coal, however, more players in the fossil fuel industry are transitioning to renewable energy in hopes of ensuring their futures both economically and otherwise.
In March, Excel energy – a $30 billion company that generated half of its energy using coal – announced that it will close a quarter of its plants and aim to produce zero-carbon energy by 2050 according to CNN.
HOW CAN SCIENTISTS TURN SUNLIGHT INTO FUEL?
Scientists have developed a way to transform sunlight into fuel that could lead to an ‘unlimited source of renewable energy’.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have done this by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.
They did this through using a technique called semi-artificial photosynthesis that is based on the same process plants use to convert sunlight into energy.
Artificial photosynthesis has been around for decades but it has not yet been successfully used to create renewable energy.
This is because it relies on the use of catalysts, which are often expensive and toxic.
Researchers used natural sunlight to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen using a mixture of biological components and manmade technologies.
Researchers reactivated a process in algae that has been dormant for millennia.
They did this using hydrogenase, an enzyme present in algae that is capable of reducing protons into hydrogen.
‘During evolution, this process has been deactivated because it wasn’t necessary for survival but we successfully managed to bypass the inactivity to achieve the reaction we wanted – splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen’, said Katarzyna Sokół, first author and PhD student at St John’s College.
Ms Sokół hopes the findings will enable new innovative model systems for solar energy conversion to be developed.