Given everything that we have talked about over the last few weeks I think it is about time we talk about the current state of the United States’ green grid. Before we begin to look at the consumption of energy in the US, we have a new term to learn: British Thermal Units, or Btu. Btu measures heat energy which allows us to compare gallons of gasoline to tons of coal to kilowatts of electricity. 100 Btu is about 29.3 watts. Per the US Energy Information Administration, the US consumed a total of 100.2 quadrillion Btu or 29.37 quadrillion watts of energy in 2019. For scale, a laptop takes anywhere between 50 to 100 watts to operate for an hour. I will let you do the math on that one.
In the United States 11% of the energy consumed is renewable energy and 8% is nuclear. Of the 11% that is renewable 44% is derived from some biomass source, such as methane. Now this isn’t necessarily green even though it is more sustainable than coal. The remaining 56% came from truly green renewables such as solar, wind, and geothermal. Unfortunately, 56% of 11% is only 6.2% of our energy consumption. But this blog is about being hopeful of the future of renewables so let us consider the positive trends. In 2000 alone our energy consumption derived from coal vs renewables was at a ratio of 3.7:1. Today this ratio is at 1:1, well slightly better than 1:1 as renewables accounted to 0.15 quadrillion more Btu than coal in 2019. Renewable energy consumption is on an upward trend, and in 2019 reached record highs.
Now let us get acquainted with who the largest producers of renewable energy are in the United States. Under the guidance of none other than Rick Perry, the 14th US Secretary of Energy and 47th governor of Texas, the state of Texas transformed its energy grid, for better or for worse. This transformation made Texas the number one wind producing state in the country with the capacity to generate just shy of 25 thousand megawatts of power. According to Perry himself, Texas alone harvests more wind energy than all but five other countries in the world. Perry was unavailable for a comment as to what these five countries are.
When it comes to solar, we still see Texas near the top of the list, though it falls to second with 7.8 thousand megawatts of capacity. The top solar energy producing state is California which dominates this category of renewables with a 31.3-thousand-megawatt capacity. California also reigns as king when it comes to geothermal energy, of which it produces 71.2% of the 16 million megawatts produced in 2019. I would be remiss to not mention that my current home state of Nevada takes the silver producing 23.5% of the US’s geothermal energy. But where Nevada takes the gold is that it has the highest geothermal share of all electricity produced within a state at 9.5%.
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