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EGEB: Green energy beats coal in the US for the first time since 1885

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • In 2019, renewables exceeded coal in annual US energy consumption for the first time in more than 130 years.
  • Louisiana has approved a $1 billion wind farm project.
  • Oklahoma’s wind energy is growing like crazy, according to a VP at Goldman Sachs Renewable Energy Group.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Renewables beat coal in the US

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that renewables exceeded coal in US annual energy consumption for the first time since 1885. That’s because coal has been declining as a source of electricity over the last 10 years, while wind and solar are growing.

How is that timeline relevant, you ask, since historically, there weren’t any solar panels or wind turbines as we know them today? (I wondered, too.) The EIA summarizes the US’ energy usage history (and spoiler: It defines wood as renewable):

Historically, wood was the main source of US energy until the mid-1800s and was the only commercial-scale renewable source of energy in the United States until the first hydropower plants began producing electricity in the 1880s. Coal was used in the early 1800s as fuel for steam-powered boats and trains and making steel, and it was later used to generate electricity in the 1880s. EIA’s earliest energy estimates began in 1635.

In 2019, US coal consumption decreased by nearly 15% to 11.3 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), and total green energy consumption grew by 1% to 11.5 quadrillion Btu. Wind surpassed hydro for the first time and is now the largest source of green energy in the US on an annual basis.

About 56% of commercially delivered US renewable energy is used in the electric power sector, mostly from wind and hydroelectricity, but different types are also consumed in the industrial (22%), transportation (12%), residential (7%), and commercial (2%) sectors.

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said:

It’s basic economics. Renewable energy is cheaper, cleaner, and abundant. There is simply no way for coal to compete. And there is no Wall Street analyst who would risk their clients’ portfolio by investing in an industry in freefall.

Oklahoma gets windier

John Moran, vice president at Goldman Sachs Renewable Energy Group, posted a chart sourced from the EIA data browser that shows how much Oklahoma is moving toward wind and away from coal.

Moran wrote:

I’m a Notre Dame fan, but, …..Go Sooners! Wow

In the first quarter of 2020, wind reached 7,722 GWH of electricity generation in the midwestern state, while coal dropped to 292 GWH.

Oklahoma ranks second in total electricity net generation from wind after Texas, and third in wind’s share of state generation after Iowa and Kansas.

However, Oklahoma was the fourth-largest crude oil producer in 2019, and had the fourth-largest gross withdrawals of natural gas. Let’s keep that wind generation growing in the Sooner State, and move away from fossil fuels.

Louisiana gets on Oklahoma’s wind bandwagon

Southwestern Electric Power Co (SWEPCO), based in Shreveport, Louisiana, was given the go-ahead by the Louisiana Public Service Commission to invest more than $1 billion to acquire three wind farms in north-central Oklahoma. It will own 810 megawatts, or 54.5% of the 1,485-megawatt project, with its sister company, Public Service Company of Oklahoma. Both companies will acquire the wind farms when they are completed in 2020 and 2021.

The projects will provide 810 megawatts of green energy to customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Arkansas Public Service Commission approved the project earlier in May, and Texas has yet to approve.

Further, reports Arkansas-based Talk Business & Politics:

In Louisiana, the project was approved along with SWEPCO’s proposal to add up to 200 megawatts of solar energy. The solar resources would be located within SWEPCO’s existing service territory and construction would start in the next three years.

Foster Campbell, commissioner for the Louisiana Public Service Commission, said:

This is the largest renewable-energy project ever put forward by a Louisiana utility. I’m proud that the Louisiana commission is making this move. And I’m happy that it has a northwest Louisiana solar component to go along with the wind power.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.