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Electricity Generation from Renewable Sources


Last update: July 9, 2017, 3:13 EST

Description

Renewable sources of energy (especially, wind) are gradually taking up a larger share of electricity generation in the United States. In future, the traditional competition between natural gas and coal will decline, while the competition between natural gas and renewables will intensify. It is, therefore, important to understand the key features of electricity generation from renewable sources. One of the most important features is natural seasonality. Renewable energy (in our case, wind solar and hydro) is derived from natural processes, which cannot be controlled by humans (for example, sunlight and wind). Perhaps, only hydro generation can be partially controlled, but it is also heavily influenced by precipitation and melting snowpack in the Pacific Northwest.

We have ranked 12 calendar months in terms of their ability to provide “natural fuels” for renewable electricity generation. The ranking is based on an annual percentile basis and ranges from 1 to 12 for every type of renewable energy. 1 – weakest; 12 – strongest.

Average monthly net generation from renewable sources is plotted on the right axis. The calculations are based on a 3-year period (2014-2016).

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, NOAA National Weather Service / Climate Prediction Center, Bluegold Research estimates and calculations 

Examples

  • in January, there are more cloudy days than clear days and sunny days are shorter, so solar generation is at its weakest. Therefore, we give only 1 point to solar energy in January;
  • in March, melting snowpack is increasing water flows and hydroelectric output is at its highest. Therefore, we give 12 points to hydro energy in March;
  • in most regions, average wind speeds slow down during the summer and wind generation is at its weakest in August. Therefore, we give only 1 point to wind energy in August. At the same time, August tends to have fewer cloudy days and longer sunny days, so solar generation is at its strongest.
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