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U.S. reports a major milestone in wind and solar power

by Andrea Waitrovich

Approximately 10 percent of all of the electricity generated in the United States in March came from wind and solar power, marking the first such milestone in U.S. history, according to a new U.S. Energy Information Administration report.

Wind energy accounted for 8 percent and solar accounted for 2 percent.

Monthly solar output is highest in the summer months, regardless of location, because of the greater number of daylight hours.

Based on seasonal patterns in recent years, electricity generation from wind and solar is estimated to exceed 10 percent of total U.S. generation again in April 2017, then fall to less than 10 percent in the summer months.

Since 2014, when EIA first began estimating monthly, state-level electricity generation from small-scale solar photovoltaic systems, combined wind and solar generation has reached its highest level in either the spring or fall. Because these seasons are times of generally low electricity demand, combined wind and solar generation also reached its highest share of the U.S. total during these times of year.

Based on annual data for 2016, Texas accounted for the largest total amount of wind and solar electricity generation. Nearly all of this generation was from wind, as Texas generates more wind energy than any other state. As a share of the state’s total electricity generation, wind and solar output was highest in Iowa, where wind and solar made up 37 percent of electricity generation in 2016. In addition to Iowa, wind and solar provided at least 20 percent of 2016 electricity generation in six other states.

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—Iowa, Kansas, and North Dakota—had no generation from utility-scale solar plants in 2016 and relatively little output from small-scale solar photovoltaic systems.

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