Energy & Infrastructure

Natural gas and renewables: The Dynamic Duo

Staff Reports

Watch this video from Interstate Natural Gas Association of America:


In the United States alone, there are over 52,000 operating utility-scale wind turbines and nearly 1.6 million solar installations. As abundant as they have become, it’s not always possible to install them and leave them alone to let them do their work, especially when you are dealing in large volumes. There are still days when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. That’s where natural gas helps.

Combined cycle gas plants can ramp up quickly, providing  electricity during times that solar and wind aren’t available. As more wind turbines and solar panels are developed, manufacturers are finding innovative ways to use gas plants and renewables together. In France, General Electric has opened the first combined-cycle plant allowing full power in less than 30 minutes.

Additionally, the technology behind solar panels and wind turbines is the definition of innovation. Just like almost everything we use daily, the materials that make those panels and turbines are made possible by natural gas. Most wind turbines consist of blades mounted to a tower made from steel. Within the last five years, these steel manufacturers have made the switch from coal to less carbon-intensive natural gas as energy utilized in the melting and forming process.

Similarly, solar panels are made up of mirrors facing the sun heating up a fluid that runs through tubes to a generator to produce electricity. The mirrors facing the sun have a reflective layer on them to reflect the maximum amount of solar energy. This layer is manufactured using mostly natural gas to heat furnaces and melt the components down to the layers needed.

These two components of creating wind turbines and solar panels just scratch the surface of the many ways the chemical components of natural gas are used to construct renewable energy sources.

Together, renewables and natural gas create a modern marvel. Rain or shine, windy or calm, we can rest easy knowing the dynamic duo is always hard at work generating America’s energy. For more information, be sure to watch our newest video on the partnership between renewables and natural gas.