US Renewable Energy Production Grows by 11% in 2011

Renewable Energy Production Growing Despite of Obstacles
January 6th, 2012

The renewable energy sector experienced a volatile year in 2011, confronting critics and competitors who question the validity of new, sustainable sources of power and fuels. Nevertheless renewable energy advocates surmounted many of the hurdles that were erected and continued to press forward on the long march to a clean energy future.

A review of the past year shows those advocates had much to point to in asserting the viability and validity of renewables in meeting our nation’s growing energy needs. A recent analysis by the DOE’s Energy Information Administration estimates that once the total supply of renewables is calculated for 2011, it will have grown by a remarkable 11 percent over the previous year’s total.

In fact, renewable energy sources – biomass and biofuels, geothermal energy, solar power, wind energy and hydropower – provided 4.687 quadrillion Btus of energy, a record 12.25 percent, of U.S. energy production, during the first six months of 2011. Power generated by renewables exceeded that produced from nuclear power during the first quarter of the year. And the EIA says wind energy is projected to grow by 22 percent from 2010 to 2011. Final U.S. hydropower generation numbers in 2011 are estimated to reach their highest level since 1999.

Ethanol production is estimated by the EIA to have grown from 860 thousand barrels per day in 2010, to 900 thousand last year. Nearly 10 percent of all fuel used on the road in 2011 is ethanol, which studies have shown has kept the price of gasoline down (by an average of 89 cents per gallon in 2010 according to one analysis). That’s a critical finding, given that a typical household spent an average of 8.4 percent of its annual budget on gasoline in 2011, the highest percentage since 1981.

Meanwhile, the EPA has estimated the year’s total production of U.S. biodiesel at more than 900 million gallons, more than doubling 2010 production, breaking the previous record of about 690 million gallons set in 2009, and far surpassing the 800 million gallons mandated by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.

The DOE in August released an update to its 2005 Billion Ton Study that says biomass feedstock under baseline assumptions remain sufficient to meet near- and long-term bioenergy goals, including the production of 85 billion gallons of biofuel annually, enough to displace a third of the nation’s transportation fuel demand. Looking forward, more good news came from the International Energy Association, which affirmed that biofuels can provide up to 27 percent of the world’s transportation fuels by 2050.

The installed cost of solar photovoltaic power systems in the United States continued its rapid decrease in 2011. The DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says the costs of panels and related equipment has dropped by nearly a third, making solar power cost-competitive with more traditional sources of electricity.

The geothermal industry now has power plants and small power units operating in nine states – compared to just four in 2005 – and expects to see more projects coming online in 2012 and 2013.

Among the number of significant accomplishments in the field of research last year, researchers with DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) engineered the first strains of Escherichia coli bacteria that can digest switchgrass biomass and synthesize its sugars into a clean biofuel that can directly replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

The successes of 2011 go far beyond what is chronicled here and have come about because of the hard work and support of stakeholders and 25x’25 partners. Seeing how far the sector has come, partners must redouble efforts and continue the fight in 2012. It is critical that partners and stakeholders stay united and prepared for the time when the political environment inevitably turns more favorable, and that our messages focus on the clear benefits of renewable energy – economic recovery and job creation, national security solutions to volatile oil supplies from unstable regimes, and a better environment with improved soil, water and air quality.

By reframing the national energy conversation to emphasize the renewable energy successes at the federal, state and local levels; by forging new alliances with other forward thinking sectors such as the military community, and by continuing to work for the adoption of enabling policies, we can bring the 25x’25 vision to life and achieve a clean energy future.
go here for the Original Article