US Solar & Wind Production…Just How Little Is It?

June 2, 2015

Just how little is U.S. renewable energy production from solar and wind?  Well, it actually turns out to be less than I thought.  Even though the United States continues to add new solar plants and wind farms, it’s the growth of the country’s fossil fuel output that is the real winner over the past decade.

The debate on whether renewable energy is economically sustainable over a long time period, will continue.  However, new data shows that renewables such as solar may not be the commercially viable energy savior we once thought.  I discussed this in my article, THE KEY FUTURE SILVER PRICE FACTOR: Investment Demand, Not Solar.

I imagine a heated debate will continue on this subject for many years.  Unfortunately, reneweables are really nothing more than Fossil Fuel Derivatives.  Without oil, natural gas and coal, the production of wind and solar systems could not be possible.

That being said, I do believe owning a modest solar or wind system for one’s home (bought and paid for in cash) is a wise thing to have when we start experiencing trouble with the national grid.  Basically, owning your own energy system is a wise thing to do.  However, solar and wind just don’t make economic sense on a large-scale over a long period when you look at a typical cash flow analysis of any (most) of the solar and wind projects in the United States.

Okay…let’s look at some REAL DATA.  Here’s the breakdown of U.S. energy production growth, fossil fuel versus solar and wind:

From 2005, total U.S. fossil fuel production (coal, oil, natural gas & natural gas plant liquids) grew from 55 quadrillion Btu’s (Quad Btu’s) to 69 Quad Btu’s in 2014.  Now compare this to the growth of solar and wind from 0.24 Quad Btu’s in 2005 to 2.2 Quad Btu’s in 2014.

This information comes from the EIA, the U.S. Energy Information Agency.  They provide this data in Quad Btu’s or a quadrillion British Thermal Units.  As we all know in the financial industry, a quadrillion is a lot.  Matter-a-fact, it’s speculated that the world has over a quadrillion Dollars in derivatives floating around the globe.

To give you all a frame of reference, the U.S. consumed 98.4 Quad Btu’s of energy in 2014.  This was from all domestic and imported sources.  Here is a table showing the actual amount of U.S. energy production, comparing total fossil fuels versus solar and wind:

As we can see U.S. solar and wind production is now only 3% of the total, while fossil fuels account for 97% (of these two energy groups).  I did not include other forms of energy such as biomass, geothermal, hydro or nuclear.  Here is the data just to show you just how little solar and wind contribute to our total energy picture:

2014 U.S. Energy Production (Quad Btu’s)

Fossil Fuels = 69.2 Quad Btu

Nuclear = 8.3 Quad Btu

Total Renewable = 9.6 Quad Btu

Grand Total = 87.1 Quad Btu

Total solar and wind production of 2.16 Quad Btu in 2014 was 2.4% of all U.S. energy production compared to 69.2 Quad Btu’s of fossil fuel production which accounted for nearly 80%.  In addition, solar and wind were only 22% of total U.S. renewable energy production.

I do not believe solar or wind will make much of a difference as a wide-scale viable energy source in the future.  While I realize many diehard renewable energy analysts and enthusiasts would argue otherwise, the low ALL-IN EROI COST of solar and wind will not meet our minimum requirements for running our complex high-tech societies.  More about this in future reports and articles.

NOTE:  EROI = Energy Returned On Invested.


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