Cleantechnica has a post referencing a report (pdf) from the Worldwatch Institute that claims renewables (wind, solar and biomass) have surpassed nuclear energy. This is only true if we were to look at one metric: capacity additions (megawatts). A more important metric, however, is output (megawatt-hours). Here’s the Institute’s claim (page 4):
In 2010, for the first time, worldwide cumulated installed capacity of wind turbines (193 gigawatts*), biomass and waste-to-energy plants (65 GW), and solar power (43 GW) reached 381 GW, outpacing the installed nuclear capacity of 375 GW prior to the Fukushima disaster.
Good job for those technologies. They still have a long ways to go, however, to be able to match the same output as nuclear.
Below is a chart showing the electric generation fuel shares worldwide from the International Energy Agency’s 2010 Key Stats report (pdf).
Nuclear provided 13.5% of the world’s electricity in 2008 and renewables provided 2.8% (excluding hydro). The Other category includes the same renewable technologies as the Worldwatch’s report plus a few others. Yet, despite renewables “outpacing” nuclear in capacity in 2010, the actual output was more like one-fifth of nuclear’s output. If renewables were to surpass nuclear in output, then the amount of capacity needed would be almost five times as much.
Further, Cleantechnica and the Worldwatch’s report referenced an analysis from a Duke University professor (prepared for NC WARN) claiming solar is now cheaper than nuclear. The New York Times even picked up on the Duke report. But what they probably missed was that the NY Times had to distance themselves from the analysis and that the actual report had flaws in and of itself.
If Worldwatch wanted to provide a meaningful report, then they should use some of its efforts for analyzing nuclear and apply it to other technologies for comparison. There are a lot of folks who would be interested to know the historical performances of wind, solar and other techs. I’m sure we’d find that other technologies do not have rosy histories either. Otherwise, Worldwatch's annual regurgitation of nuclear statistics does little to provide readers with any perspective.
Update 4/22, 1 pm EDT: I left the following comment at 10 am on two posts at Cleantechnica's site and they haven't shown up yet three hours later. A few other comments have been approved since then. Hmmm...
When it comes to actual production, renewables are far from surpassing nuclear worldwide. Folks here may be interested in a different take: http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2011/04/renewables-did-not-surpass-nuclear-in.html
Nuclear Energy Institute