Here’s the bad news: because of an extended drought in California and declining water resources across the Western U.S., electrical energy from hydropower dams has been reduced significantly – down by nearly 25% since 2011.

The good news: thanks to advances in green energy technology, the generation of electrical energy from renewable sources has actually surpassed hydro power for the first time this year. These green energy sources include geothermal, solar,wind power and various types of biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel, etc.). While U.S. energy production from renewables has lagged behind much of the rest of the industrial world, there has been steady progress since 2006. The U.S. Energy Information Admnistration (EIA) is projecting significant increases for 2015. While production from hydro is expected to decline by 4.2%, this loss will be more than offset by a 4.6% increase in renewables.

Leading the way in green energy generation will be wind turbines; wind power capacity is expected to grow by nearly 18% in 2015. Wood biomass and other types of biologically-produced energy sources are declining slightly, but solar energy is experiencing tremendous gains, particularly in California. Utility-scale solar energy production doubled during 2013, and is expected to double again by December of 2015. However, the EIA also projects that a significant increase in solar energy will be due to the installation of solar panels on private homes and individual buildings. Such decentralization may indeed become a trend, as it offers many advantages over centrally-located power plants.

While most of the electrical energy currently generated in the U.S. continues to rely on the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) as well as hydro dams, the trends going forward show a very promising future for renewable sources. With advances in technology, consumer demand and greater cooperation between government agencies and private industry, we should be seeing renewable, green energy take on an increasingly large share of the task of meeting the nation’s growing energy needs.

NECA/IBEW teams have been leading the way in saving energy with cutting edge green technology projects. When it comes to preparing and advancing the use of energy saving electrical technologies, few organizations in the industry are doing more. ETV will continue to highlight these exciting projects in the coming year, be sure to stay tuned and see how NECA/IBEW are changing the way we construct, produce and use electrical systems in our everyday life.

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