Renewable power stations and advances in related technology are expected to continue to grow strongly across the U.S. in the coming decade and beyond as the country attempts to supply more and more of its electricity needs from sustainable sources. Dubbed “a new era of energy exploration” by President Barack Obama, the cleaner, greener technology of renewable power sources is necessary to the nation not only for future energy security and reliability, but to protect the earth and its inhabitants against the dangers associated with fossil fuel consumption.
A drop in the bucket
As of 2015 statistics, renewable power stations across the U.S. provided 13.44% of domestically produced electricity - 11.1% of total energy generation. Billions have already been invested in efforts to create a clean energy future, with more funds expected to be allocated as the country strives to reach the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) goals: Generating 25% of energy from renewable resources by 2025, and the bulk of its energy from more earth-friendly alternatives by 2050.
What types of energy sources do renewable power stations take advantage of?
The U.S. is the fourth largest world producer of hydroelectricity, the largest source of renewable power nationwide, comprising 45.71% of renewable power and providing 6.14% of the country’s total electricity in 2015.
Largest Supplier: The Grand Coulee Dam, Washington
The fifth largest hydroelectric power station in the world and the largest in the U.S., the Grand Coulee Dam is gravity-fed dam from the Columbia River. Built between 1933 and 1942 with a third station added in 1974 to increase production, it is part of a coordinated federal system of hydroelectric facilities providing 75% of the Pacific Northwest’s entire power supply – around 21 billion kWh annually – to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Canada.
Wind power supplies 4.1% of the nation’s electricity. Eight of the world’s 10 largest wind farms are operated in the U.S. Wind produced over 190 million megawatt-hours of electricity nationwide last year - enough for around 17.5 million average homes.
Largest Suppliers of Onshore Wind Worldwide (in order of installed capacity)
1. Alta Wind Energy Centre, California
2. Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, Oregon
3. Roscoe Wind Farm, Texas
4. Horse Hollow Wind Energy Centre, Texas
5. Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm, Texas
Solar provides five-tenths of 1 percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S. Include residential, commercial, and industrial rooftop panels and lighting, and that number increases to 0.9%.
In early 2015, the southern California desert became home to he world’s largest solar plant: the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar project near Joshua Tree National Park. It generates enough electricity to power 160,000 average California homes. It beats out the second largest solar plant, the Topaz solar project in San Luis Obispo County, California, only by a hair.
The U.S. is the largest producer of geothermal power worldwide, however it only contributes four-tenths of 1 percent to the grid.
The Geysers, north of San Francisco, is the largest complex of geothermal energy production in the world, drawing steam from more than 350 wells across 72 miles with the help of its 22 geothermal power plants.
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