How Much Electricity Do We Get From Solar Power?

With all the talk of the wonders of renewable energy in the news, it’s worth taking a look at how much electricity we actually get from solar power.If you had to guess the percentage, what would it be? 10%? 5%?

From Real Clear Energy:

If you guessed 0.14%, less than 1 tenth of 1 percent, you’d be correct:

But as Michael Sandoval points out on The Foundry, even with all this new construction, solar electricity still makes up only 0.14 percent of our electrical output – little more than 1/10th of 1 percent. The graph at right shows total solar generation in 1000s of megawatt-hours per day over the past ten years. The number was less than 5,000 mWh until 2011 and has now climbed to about 10,000. “Total net generation and consumption for June, however, approached 361,800.000 megawatt hours, or approximately 12,000,000 megawatt hours per day,” writes Sandoval. With that kind of output, the 10,000 mWh from solar remains a drop in the bucket.

So, despite the bellyaching of environmentalists, it’s clear that these energy sources aren’t quite ready to replace fossil fuels that we rely on. Even wind power provided only 3.2% of our electricity, while coal and natural gas provided 32% each:

Coal provided 36.4 percent of June’s output, with natural gas supplying another 32.1 percent. By comparison, wind generation stood at 3.2 percent of the month’s overall total.

The six-month total from EIA, showing output from January 2012 to June 2012, paints an even bleaker picture of solar’s contributions to the electric grid. With net generation of just 1,664,000 megawatt hours of the nearly 2 billion megawatt hours derived from all energy sources over the first half of the year, solar energy’s portion of net generation stood at just 0.09 percent.

Solar generated less than 10 percent of the energy derived from wood and other wood-derived fuels and was the smallest contributor to the overall energy grid.


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