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EIA: Wind Surpasses Coal and Nuclear for First Time

April 22, 2022

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), on Tuesday, March 29, three and a half weeks before Earth Day, wind energy in the Lower 48 states was the second-largest source of electric generation for the day. This marked the first time that wind surpassed both coal and nuclear. Wind-powered electricity has surpassed coal-fired electricity and nuclear-generated electricity separately on other days this year, but had not surpassed both coal and nuclear on the same day. For the day, wind produced 2,017 gigawatthours (GWh) of electricity, trailing only natural gas, which remains the largest source of electricity generation in the United States.

The EIA cited consistent growth in installed wind capacity as a contributing factor for why wind surpassed coal and nuclear on March 29. But another, less optimistic reason is that the demand for coal and nuclear energy tends to be lower in the spring and fall, so generators tend to reduce their output. And the EIA’s short-term energy outlook, released in mid-April, suggests that wind may not overtake coal and nuclear just yet: on a monthly basis, wind electricity generation has been lower than electricity sourced by natural gas, coal, and nuclear; moreover, the EIA projects that wind will not surpass natural gas, coal, or nuclear on a monthly basis in the rest of 2022 and 2023:

That said, this news may still be a source of an upward trend. On Earth Day, people, businesses, and institutions draw more attention to climate change and to fighting climate change. Hopefully the fact that wind did surpass coal and nuclear, even if only for a day, will spark some positive momentum for wind energy today and beyond. If installed wind capacity continues to grow at an increasing rate and wind energy surpasses coal and nuclear energy on a more consistent basis, perhaps that will mark a step in the right direction in the fight against climate change.