Recently, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released their most recent report regarding the consumption of alternative energy in the United States. While the nation’s complete dependence on fossil fuels is readily apparent in the report, there are signs of progress as well. Nationwide, renewable energy sources accounted for over 7% of the total energy consumption. Within that 7% the main type of renewable energy that was consumed was biomass, meaning the burning of fuels produced from renewable sources such as ethanol production and biodiesel accounting for 52% of the total renewable energy consumed. The biomass sector has seen substantial growth, more than doubling its market share in the period between 2004-2008. The second leading source of renewable energy consumed was hydroelectric power which accounted for 34%. Hydroelectric energy production has remained steady (with minor fluctuations due to water levels) at between 2.2 and 3.6 quadrillion Btu/yr for about 20 years. The leading states as far as hydroelectric power generation were Washington, Oregon, New York, California, Montana and Idaho, although there was some growth in Alabama, Arkansas and New York. Since plans for the construction of new dams is limited, it can be expected that these figures will continue basically unchanged.
However, many other sectors of renewable energy production saw considerable growth. Electricity production from wind saw 5-fold growth from 2004 to 2008 and 61% year-to year between 2007 and 2008. This is due mainly to significant incentives put into place for wind energy production via heavy government subsidies of the sector. Wind energy projects in California, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, Iowa and Colorado accounted for much of the growth during this period. By the end of 2008, there were 7 states producing at least 1,000 MW of power from wind turbines. Increases in different sectors of renewable energy included the use of geothermal and solar/PV in California and Nevada. California continued to lead the field of renewable energy production nationwide, with active projects in all renewable energy sectors.
While renewable energy accounted for 7% of the total energy consumed in the United States during 2008, it accounted for 9.3% of electricity generation. This difference is due mostly to the consumption of petroleum to power motor vehicles, where a lesser share of renewable sources were utilized. That figure is up from 8% in 2004 representing a 16% increase.
All in all, it seems that renewable energy production is on the rise nationwide. Many states have committed to renewable energy goals, generally striving for about 20% generation capacity by 2020. If growth continues in renewable energy at the present rate, that figure should be well within reach.