U.S. Renewable Power in 1999

A quick overview of wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass power in early 1999.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
February/March 1999
Add to My MSN

Solar panels sales have tripled in recent years.

Content Tools

Related Content

Catching the Breeze: New Technology for Storing Wind Energy

One of the disadvantages of wind power is that the wind doesn't always blow. But in the future, new ...

The EPA Recognized 20 Green Power Partnerships

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a list of the top 20 on-site renewable electtricity ge...

Power to the People

Southwest Windpower is the world’s leading supplier of distributed wind generators. With history las...

Wind Turbines and Bird Kills

Wind turbines kills birds, but not as many as are killed by tall buildings and other hazards.


The U.S. currently has more than 1,600 megawatts of installed windpower generation capacity. This generation capacity produces about three billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. That's enough electricity to meet the annual residential electricity needs of more than one million people.

More than 90% of the total wind power produced in the U.S. is generated by three West Coast wind farms (located in Altamont Pass in northern California and Tehachapi and Palm Springs in southern California).

The U.S. possesses enough useable wind resource to produce more electricity than the nation currently uses. The majority of this usable resource blows across the Great Plains region. North Dakota alone has enough suitable wind resource to supply 36% of the electricity consumed in the U.S.


The U.S. annually uses more than 71 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of solar energy (1 million BTUs equals 90 pounds of coal or eight gallons of gasoline). The residential and commercial sectors use 60 trillion BTUs, the industrial - sector 11 trillion BTUs, and utilities 500 billion BTUs. In the last seven years, photovoltaic sales have nearly tripled. More than 84 megawatts of modules were manufactured worldwide in 1995.


U.S. geothermal power plants currently have a total electricity generation capacity of 2,700 megawatts. This is enough electricity to meet the residential electricity needs of more than 3.5 million people. Most of the country's geothermal resources are located in the western U.S. In fact, the world's largest geothermal power plant--the Geysers Power Plant in northern California--generates more than 1,700 megawatts of power. Known geothermal reserves could supply the entire country with electricity for 30 years.


The U.S. is the world's leading producer of hydroelectric power. Hydropower currently provides 92,000 megawatts of electricity generating capacity in the U.S.-- enough to meet the needs of 28 million households. This represents about 10% of the nation's total electricity generation capacity and accounts for almost 50% of all renewable energy used in the U.S. These percentages are unlikely to increase. There are few good sites left to build new large dams, and there is widespread opposition on environmental grounds to the building of new dams.

The nation's largest hydropower plant is the 7,600-megawatt Grand Coulee power station located on the Columbia River in Washington state. The plant is being scaled up to 10,080 megawatts, which will place it second in the world behind a colossal 13,320-megawatt plant in Brazil


U.S. utilities use biomass to generate more than 7,500 megawatts of electricity.

This is enough power to meet the energy needs of several million households. Today, various forms of biomass energy account for nearly 4% of all energy consumed, and 45% of renewable energy used, in the United States. Biomass currently supplies 2% of the electricity used in California. It is more expensive than other sources of electricity, principally because it is costly to transport fuel from its source to the incinerator.

--From Utility Guide: The Information Network for Utility Users ( http//www.utilityguide.com/index.html).  

Previous | 1 | 2 | Next

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.