For the first time, U.S. wind and solar production in March exceeded 10% of total electricity generation, based on March data in EIA’s Electric Power Monthly.
The record contribution for non-hydro renewables comes amid surging installations of both wind and solar in the US, with 14.8GW of solar and 8.2GW of wind added in 2016. On an annual basis, wind and solar made up 7% of total U.S. electric generation.
Seasonal Factors Support the Record
Several factors help to explain the new record.
- Consumer demand variation is typically lowest in the spring and fall shoulder months. By extension, total electricity generation dispatch will be low, allowing renewable energy to claim a larger share of the total.
- Wind power generation also has high potential to peak in the spring and fall as the change in seasons typically has more storm fronts or high winds.
- Finally, EIA analysts have also been more successful to collect production data on combined utility-scale PV and distributed PV.
The chart below confirms the seasonal trend in combined wind and solar output. Wind generation accounted for 8% of total US electricity production. At the same time, solar production from from large and small projects accounted for 2% of total production.
In almost all states, wind makes up a larger share of the state’s total electricity generation than solar. Among the top dozen states, only California and Arizona had more solar generation than wind in 2016. Three states in the top 12 for renewable energy power systems – Iowa, Kansas, and North Dakota – had no generation from utility-scale solar plants in 2016. Currently, these same states had relatively little output from small-scale solar PV systems.