Yesterday I presented data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that through the first quarter of 2011 both production and consumption of energy from renewable sources had surpassed that of nuclear energy in the United States. Also noted was that compared to the same period in 2010, renewable energy production had increased by 15% in 2011.

The EIA categorizes renewables as the following sources; hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass (wood, waste, and liquid biofuels). So which of these sources are leading the recent growth in renewable energy? Solar, wind and biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) have seen the most growth out of the renewable sources over the last 10 years. From 2001 – 2010 energy from wind, solar, and biofuels has increased by 70%, 1,220%, and 633% respectively. As a whole energy consumed from renewable sources has increased by 56% over that period.

The growth of energy from those sources over the last year has also been strong. From 2009 to 2010 solar grew by 11.2%, and has increase by 4% from the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same time period in 2010. Wind and biofuels have also seen solid increases, with 28% and 18% respectively from 2009 to 2010, and 40% and 6% respectively from Q1 of 2011 to Q1 of 2010.

Renewables made up 8.5% of the total energy consumed in the first quarter of 2011. That total is made up of the following, in trillion BTUs; 795 from hydro (35.9%), 55 from geothermal (2.5%), 26 from solar (1.2% ), 290 from wind (13.1%), 478 from wood biomass (21.6%), 111 from waste (5%), and 1,046 from biofuels (20.7%).

How does this compare to the TOTAL energy use in this country? Hydro power accounted for 3.1%, geothermal for 0.2%, solar for 0.1%, wind for 1.1%, wood for 1.8%, waste for 0.4%, and biofuels for 1.8%. Of the non renewable sources of energy we consume, 8.2% is from nuclear 83.3% is from fossil fuels.

So you can look at all this data from two perspectives;

Sources such as wind and solar are fairly insignificant in the overall energy mix today, at or below 1% of total energy consumed.

But on the other hand, renewable generation as a whole is growing at 56% over the last 10 years, with solar and wind at rates of 70% and 1,220% respectively. While these renewables are all increasing, the amount of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum) consumed domestically has actually decreased by 1.8% over the last 10 years.

Considering how small a slice of the pie renewables have started with, growing from 7.5% of total energy consumed in 2010 to 8.5% in 2011 is significant progress.

A few quick links also today:

In addition to using less or no gasoline and reducing emissions, hybrid and electric cars also reduce noise pollution. Unfortunately rather than enjoy the reduction in noise that will happen as hybrid and electric vehicles become common place, the government is looking to mandate they make noise. Now I understand the safety concerns, but perhaps rather maintaining the status quo with noisy vehicles, pedestrians should be more aware of their surroundings!

What’s the use of maintaining the environment if nobody can afford to live here, or if we are just going to pollute it anyway from coal power plants in neighboring states? Governor Christie has been slashing the budget left and right, but had a line item veto to keep the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Economic Growth and Green Energy alive. Environmental groups don’t seem to be big fans of this DEP office which has been tasked with bringing the offshore wind industry (among other renewable energy technologies) into the state. The office essentially helps bring new businesses with renewable energy and similar technologies into the state by navigating them through the somewhat notorious approval processes and bureaucracy in the DEP. Environmentalists fighting this seems to be the classic case of stubborn idealists halting progress. The old view of, “You’re either with us or against us” doesn’t work today. This office is primarily advocating the development of offshore wind in NJ, which could have enormous environmental and economic benefits, why fight them?