2021: The Year Renewables “Lost Last Place”
Guest “Let’s go Mets!” by David Middleton
There are three things that I am somewhat embarrassed of:
- I am not a native Texan… I was born in Connecticut, but I got here as fast as I could.
- I am a life-long New York Jets fan… I watch a recording of Super Bowl III every Super Bowl Sunday.
- I am a life-long New York Mets fan.
One of my favorite books of all time is The Year the Mets Lost Last Place…
After the Mets secured their World Series win in Game 5 on October 16, 1969, people wanted the story of that miraculous season as soon as possible. Paul Zimmerman and Dick Schaap would be the first among many to publish a comprehensive account, issuing their book on “the most amazing year in the history of baseball” only two days after the Mets won the World Series. How did they manage that? They documented the thrills of the season as they happened. By the time the Mets surprised the world with their upset of the Baltimore Orioles, Zimmerman and Schaap’s play-by-play prose was already in hand, ready for fans who wanted to learn about and relive one of baseball’s most inspiring triumphs.
I was ten years old throughout most of 1969. The Jets won Super Bowl III in January, Neil Armstrong took that “giant leap for mankind” in July and the Amazing Mets went from perennial last, or next-to-last, place finishers to upsetting the Baltimore Orioles four games to one in the World Series. 1969 will always be one of my favorite years… So I guess I shouldn’t rag on renewables for crawling out of last place… But, I will anyway.
APRIL 26, 2022
Renewable generation surpassed nuclear in the U.S. electric power sector in 2021
Electric power sector generation from renewable sources totaled 795 million megawatthours (MWh) in the United States during 2021, surpassing nuclear generation, which totaled 778 million MWh. The U.S. electric power sector does not include electricity generators in the industrial, commercial, or residential sectors, such as small-scale solar or wind or some combined-heat-and-power systems. Renewable generation includes electricity generated from wind, hydropower, solar, biomass, and geothermal sources.
Natural gas remained the most prevalent source of energy used in electricity generation in the United States, accounting for 1,474 million MWh in 2021. Although several U.S. coal-fired power plants retired in 2021, coal-fired electricity generation increased for the first time since 2014 and was the source of more U.S. electricity than either renewables or nuclear power. Total generation in the electric power sector increased slightly in 2021, but it remained less than its record-high year of 2018.
The increase in U.S. electric power sector renewable generation during 2021 came mainly from more wind and solar generation as a result of more wind turbines and utility-scale solar power plants coming online. Wind generation increased by 12% in 2021, and utility-scale solar generation increased by 28%. Hydroelectric generation decreased to its lowest level since 2015, mainly because of dry conditions in the western United States. Biomass and geothermal electricity generation remained relatively unchanged in 2021.
Nuclear-powered generation has remained relatively steady in the United States during the past decade because uprates at existing facilities have offset the retirement of several reactors. Only one reactor was retired in 2021: New York’s Indian Point Unit 3. Despite a slight increase in the capacity factor of the U.S. nuclear fleet in 2021, U.S. nuclear electricity generation fell to its lowest level since 2012.
Principal contributor: Syne Salem
Renewables (wind + hydroelectricity + solar + biomass + geothermal) barely edged out nuclear power (795 to 778 million MWh) in 2021. This seems about as newsworthy as the New York Mets’ starting lineup hitting more homeruns in 1969 than Hank Aaron…
Hank Aaron hit his 44 homeruns in just 547 at bats. The Mets starting lineup required 3,250 at bats to rack up their 68 homeruns… giving us another analogy: MWh of generation per MW of installed capacity. The most recent EIA numbers are for 2020.
- Nuclear Power: 96,501 MW
- Renewables (wind + hydroelectricity + solar + biomass + geothermal): 284,895 MW
Nuclear power plants generated 778 million MWh from about 96,500 MW of installed capacity. Renewables required about 286,000 MW to rack up 795 million MWh. Nuclear power plants delivered a 92% capacity factor, renewables took 2/3 of the year off, only delivering a 32% capacity factor. The numbers aren’t exact because I’m using 2021 generation and 2020 installed capacity… But they are “in the ballpark.”
Carrying on with odd segues…
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