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Renewable Energy Across the Globe: North America

Great steps have been made across the globe toward adopting more environmentally conscious energy sources. How each continent makes use of their varied resources is what sets them apart from each other.
Here’s what’s happening in North America:

In the United States renewable energy accounts for a little over 11% of total energy generation and consists of mainly of hydroelectric (58%), wind (27%) and biomass (11%)  sources. Meanwhile, renewable energy sources, mainly hydroelectric, geothermal, solar and wind, make up 26% of Mexico’s total electricity generation.

In total, the installed solar capacity of the United States is over 3 GW. There are several solar thermal power stations in the United States, including the world’s largest solar plant in the Mojave Desert with a total capacity of 354 MW. The largest photovoltaic power plant in North America can be found in Arizona and has a capacity of 200 MW.  Almost one million acres of land in the United States have since been made available for solar projects, space enough to generate between 10 and 20 million MW of solar power. Several solar energy facilities are already under construction in California, Arizona and Nevada. It is expected that 400 MW worth will be installed in the United States within the next five years. Canada has a number of photovoltaic power plants, as well, including one in Sarnia which was the largest in the world when first constructed.

In the United States, 4% of the nation’s electricity is provided by wind power, with an installed capacity of over 60 GW. A further 9 GW worth of projects are under construction. The total potential of wind power in the United States is 10 million MW onshore and 4 million MW offshore. Canada, meanwhile, is the world’s 6th largest producer of wind energy, as of 2011.

The largest source of renewable power in the United States is hydroelectric, which accounts for over 6% of the nation’s total electricity. The United States is home to the 5th largest hydroelectric power station in the world, the Grand Coulee Dam, and is the world’s 4th largest producer of hydroelectricity. Canada generates almost 60% of its electricity from hydroelectric dams and is the 2nd largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world.

There is currently a 15 MW tidal plant operating in Nova Scotia. Wave power is only just moving beyond the research and development phase in the United States, however, with major installations planned for the coming years.

The United States is the global leader in geothermal energy production and capacity. While geothermal energy only represents less than 0.5% of the national total electrical consumption, over 16 billion kWh of electricity was produced in 2005 alone. New geothermal plants are eligible for full tax credits and funding has been increased to the Bureau of Land Management to process geothermal leases and permits.

In 2013, 57 million MWh of electricity, 1.4% of the United State’s total, was produced from biomass. Furthermore, most automobiles are now capable of running on 10% ethanol blend fuels, with manufacturers working on producing vehicles capable of running on fuels with much higher ethanol content.
Want to know what’s happening in the other continents? Check below:

Africa – lots of untapped potential
Antartcica – yes, even in Antarctica
Asia – find out how Japan is doing in response to the Fukushima nuclear accident and where the rest of Asia is at renewable energy
Australia – hydroelectricity accounts for almost 60% of their renewable energy
Europe – guess which country has the first commercial wave farm
North America – who is the world’s largest wind producer, Canada, Mexico or the United States?
South America – find out why it is the leader in electricity from renewable sources.


Kathryn Hannis

Kathryn spent the first half of her life in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States. Then, just as she was about to begin her freshman year in high school, her family uprooted and transplanted to The Hague, the Netherlands, Europe. Kathryn studied Environmental Engineering at NAU, in Flagstaff, Arizona, and then later moved back to the Netherlands to get a Master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Technology.

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