This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 27, 2002

U.S. Solar and Wind Industries Grow as Hydropower Drops

The U.S. solar and wind energy industry had banner years in 2001, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the numbers for overall renewable energy use. According to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA), a 23 percent drop in production from hydropower caused the total U.S. consumption of renewable energy to drop by about 12 percent, providing only about 6 percent of the country's energy needs. Surprisingly, consumption of most other renewable energy sources also declined, and only wind power managed to show a 3.5 percent increase. Total renewable energy generating capacity grew by about 2 percent-803 megawatts-thanks largely to new wind generation capacity.

But despite those largely discouraging figures, the U.S. solar energy industry was booming. Shipments of solar thermal collectors-mainly for residential pool heating-increased 34 percent over shipments in 2000. Domestic shipments of photovoltaic systems shot up 80 percent, while exports declined about 10 percent, yielding an overall 11 percent growth in the industry. Shipments of thin-film solar modules showed the greatest increase, totaling 13 peak megawatts of capacity, compared to less than 4 peak megawatts shipped in previous years.

One discouraging note for the U.S. industry: shipments of geothermal heat pumps dropped by 15 percent, to less than 36,000 units. See the EIA press release, or go straight to the full report.

While the U.S. solar energy industry is doing well, the worldwide solar power industry also appears to be booming, according to a report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) back in August. The report shows a 35 percent increase in installed photovoltaic capacity throughout the world in 2001, falling just short of 1000 megawatts of peak capacity. Annual production of solar modules increased more than six-fold since 1993, to a production total of 319 megawatts of peak capacity in 2001. Contrary to recent reports from some companies, the IEA report concludes that solar power capacity remains at only 60 percent of the market capacity. See the IEA report (PDF 5.0 MB). Download Acrobat Reader.