Wind Power Surpasses Coal, Nuclear as Power Generation Source in US

For an entire day, wind power became the second-largest source of electricity in the country for the first time in recorded history.
Wind turbines in Coachella Valley, California
Bloomberg / Getty Images

For the first time in recorded history, wind power was the second-largest source of electricity in the country for an entire day. 

That’s according to data from the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Hourly Electric Grid Monitor, which on March 29 spotted wind energy surpassing both coal-fired and nuclear electricity generation to become a top source of energy across the U.S., second only to natural gas. 

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Wind turbines in the Lower 48 states produced 2,017 gigawatt hours of electricity that day, comprising 19 percent of the overall energy generated, beating out nuclear by a hair and coal by 2 percent. Natural gas accounted for 31 percent of electricity generated. 

The EIA attributes the broken wind production records to consistent growth in wind power as a whole throughout the US. The number of land-based wind turbines in the country has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2021, wind accounted for 42 percent of new energy installed in the country, amounting to more capacity added to the grid than any other energy source. In 2000, electricity generation from wind amounted to around 6 billion kilowatt hours; in 2021, it amounted to 380 billion.

But the timing of the wind penetration event was no coincidence either, the EIA noted in a press release. Wind speeds tend to be higher during spring, and, amid milder temperatures, energy demand tends to decrease overall, so nuclear and coal-fired generators tend to reduce their production during warmer months. That makes way for wind to surpass both energy sources.

March 29 was the first time that wind generation beat out all other energy sources but gas for an entire day—in spring of 2021, it happened for an hour. The EIA notes cautiously that it’s unlikely that wind will beat out other energy sources for as long as a month in 2022 or 2023, but the achievement is still a sign of an industry on the rise.