Electricity Production in the United States

L. David Roper

United States Consumption of Energy by Source

The data for electricity production in the United States are available at http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/xls/table_1_01.xlsx .

The following graph shows the major U.S. electricity sources versus time:

In this article I concentrate on the top three (coal, nuclear, natural gas) and renewables. The object of this study is to determine when in the future the exponential growth in renewable energy (renewables) as a source of electricity in the United States will pass the other three. (Here "renewables" represent the summation of wind, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, wood, geothermal and other biomass. Note that hydroelectric is not included and that renewables have almost caught up with hydroelectric.

The top three can be approximately represented by straight lines, whereas renewables are growing exponentially:

The exponential curve is a fit to the 2008-2013 data.
The exponential rate is 7.9 years or a doubling time of 5.5 years.

Projecting straight-line fits to the top three and the exponential fit to renewables, one gets:

The dashed-red curve is the more likely projection for natural gas because its extraction will peak in a few years.

Some salient points:

Of course, electricity from renewables cannot grow exponentially into the far future; at some time it has to level off, similar to a hyperbolic tangent curve.

To counteract the fall in coal electricity and the upcoming fall in natural-gas electricity, the exponential-rise rate for renewables electricity needs to be increased as has been the case during the last decade.

One often hears the following two arguments against getting most of U.S. electricity from renewable sources:

Both of these issues would become moot if a smart national electricity grid were in place.

Renewable Energy Debate

L. David Roper interdisciplinary studies

L. David Roper, http://www.roperld.com/personal/roperldavid.htm
29 April, 2022