In a First, Wind Outdoes Coal, Nuclear Power

A permanent shift doesn't appear imminent after single-day milestone, agency says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2022 5:30 PM CDT
Wind Overtakes Coal, Nuclear for a Single Day
Wind turbines are silhouetted against the rising sun last year near Spearville, Kan.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

(Newser) – On March 29, wind turbines throughout the continental US produced 19% of the nation's energy, government data show. That was more than coal or nuclear power contributed, the first time that's been the case, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Only natural gas topped wind power that day, generating 31% of electricity, USA Today reports. Wind has surpassed coal or nuclear at other times, but not both on the same day. That made March 29 a milestone, but the agency said that doesn't mean it's a trend.

Demand for electricity usually declines in the spring and fall, so the output of nuclear and coal generators often is cut back, sometimes so maintenance can be performed. And March usually is the windiest month of the year, per Scientific American. Overall, gas remains the nation's No. 1 source of electricity generation. The Energy Information Administration doesn't project wind to again pass any other source for any month in the rest of 2022 or 2023, per NPR.

President Biden has set a goal of achieving 80% carbon-free power before the decade ends, including nuclear and hydropower, up from 42% in the US last year from low- and zero-carbon sources. "It is going to be tough," said Ric O’Connell, a consultant. Difficulties involving the logistics and expense of large amounts of renewables on the grid have been solved, per Scientific American. But transmission and interconnection issues, as well as supply chain limitations, make growth in renewable capacity difficult. "A lot of stuff has to happen to keep it going," O’Connell said, adding that it will take require efforts beyond the government's. (Read more wind power stories.)

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