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Americans used less energy in 2011 than in 2010, but they consumed more wind power than in the previous year, finds a new report from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

The decrease in overall energy consumption was due mainly to a shift to higher-efficiency energy technologies in the transportation and residential sectors, LLNL says. Overall, U.S. energy use in 2011 equaled 97.3 quadrillion Btus (quads), compared to 98 quads used in 2010.

Most of the energy was tied to coal, natural gas and petroleum. However, wind power saw the biggest consumption jump, increasing from 0.92 quadrillion Btus (quads) in 2010 to 1.17 quads in 2011. Meanwhile, less coal was used, but more natural gas was consumed, LLNL notes.

Much of the increase in wind energy consumption came from new wind projects entering operation in the rush to qualify for the Dec. 31 in-service deadline of the production tax credit, a key incentive for the wind industry.

"Wind energy jumped significantly because, as in previous years, many new wind farms came online," says A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst. "This is the result of sustained investment in wind power."

Hydroelectricity also saw an increase, jumping from 2.51 quads in 2010 to 3.17 quads in 2011. According to LLNL, hydroelectricity jumped significantly in 2011 because the year saw large amounts of precipitation in the western U.S., and hydroelectric dams were able to produce at their maximum levels while keeping reservoirs full.

From 2010 to 2011, the use of coal fell dramatically, the use of oil (petroleum) fell slightly and the use of natural gas increased slightly, from 24.65 quads in 2010 to 26.9 quads in 2011.

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