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Renewable Energy Provided 99 Percent of New Power Generation in January

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Renewable Energy Provided 99 Percent of New Power Generation in January

The new year began with as green a bang as any renewable energy advocate could have hoped for.

Renewable sources provided nearly 100 percent of the new power generation installed in the U.S. in January, according to new data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Of the 325 megawatts (MW) of added generation, only 1 MW was qualified as something other than a renewable energy source. In fact, it was listed under the "other" category.

Table credit: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Solar energy crushed all competitors with 287 MW installed last month. Geothermal steam projects accounted for 30 MW, while wind came in third at 4 MW.

Coal, natural gas, nuclear and oil combined for zero units and zero installed capacity. Last year, natural gas installed more in January than all types of energy did last month.

Table credit: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

While solar energy far outpaced its counterparts in January, it will take many similar months for clean energy to chip away at the dominance of natural gas and coal. Those two sources combine for nearly three-quarters of the nation's total energy capacity.

However, as Think Progress points out, renewables have experienced wildly successful months before. In November 2013, 100 percent of the 394 MW of new capacity added came from renewable sources. The month before that, 99 percent of the 699 MW added were renewable.

March 2013 was a 100-percent solar month with seven units of new capacity totaling 44 MW.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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