Renewable Energy Delivers 70 Percent of New Generating Capacity in First Half of 2015

Renewable energy provides 70 percent of new generating capacity in first half of 2015

According to the recently released Energy Infrastructure Updatefrom the Office of Energy Projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), renewable energy sources accounted for 69.75 percent of new electrical generation placed into service in the first six months of 2015.*

Wind provided more than half (50.64 percent) of all new capacity, or 1,969 megawatts (MW) thus far this year from 18 generating "units." Solar followed with 549 MW (71 units), biomass with 128 MW (7 units), geothermal steam with 45 MW (1 unit), and hydropower with 21 MW (1 unit).

Twenty-one units of natural gas contributed 1,173 MW and one unit of coal provided just 3 MW of new generating capacity. For the first half of 2015, new generating capacity from renewable energy sources was 904 times greater than that from coal and more than double that from natural gas. To date, no new capacity came from either nuclear or oil.

For the month of June, wind, biomass, and solar provided 97 percent of new capacity with 320 MW, 95 MW and 62 MW respectively. Natural gas brought 15 MW of online in June.

The trend continues with renewable energy now accounting for 17.27 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water - 8.61%, wind - 5.84%, biomass - 1.40%, solar - 1.08%, and geothermal steam - 0.34% (for comparison, renewables were 16.28% of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.20%) and oil (3.87%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.96% in mid-2013 to 26.83% today. **

"With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date," noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding 'Yes!'."

* See the tables titled "New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion)" and "Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity"

** Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Electrical production per MW of available capacity (i.e., capacity factor) for renewables is often lower than that for fossil fuels and nuclear power. According to the most recent data (i.e., as of April 2015) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources now totals about 14.6% of total U.S. electrical production (see: http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly); however, this figure almost certainly understates renewables' actual contribution significantly because neither EIA nor FERC fully accounts for all electricity generated by distributed renewable energy sources (e.g., uncounted rooftop solar now provides about 45% of U.S. solar capacity).

Image credit: Ylloh, courtesy pixabay

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