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Renewable Energy Provides Half of All New US Electrical Generating Capacity in 2012

According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) accounted for 49.10% of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed in the twelve months of 2012 for a total of 12,956 MW. More than a quarter of that new capacity (25.29% - 3,276 MW) came online in the month of December 2012 alone.

Wind led the way in 2012 with 164 new "units" totaling 10,689 MW followed by solar with 240units totaling 1,476 MW. Biomass added 100 new units totaling 543 MW while geothermal steam and water each had 13 new units with installed capacities of 149 MW and 99 MW respectively.

By comparison, for the full 12 months of 2012, new natural gas generation in service totaled 8,746 MW (33.15%) followed by coal (4,510 MW - 17.09%), nuclear (125 MW - 0.47%), and oil (49 MW - 0.19%).

New capacity from renewable energy sources in 2012 increased by 51.16% compared to 2011 when those sources added 8,571 MW. In 2011, renewables accounted for 39.33% of all new in-service generation capacity.

Renewable sources now account for 15.40% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water 8.47%, wind 4.97%, biomass 1.30%, solar 0.34%, and geothermal 0.32%. This is more than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (3.57%) combined. Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation -- actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the U.S. now totals about 13% according to data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"If there were still any lingering doubts about the ability of renewable energy technologies to come on-line quickly and in amounts sufficient to displace fossil fuels and nuclear power, the 2012 numbers have put those doubts to rest," said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "Not only has renewable energy become a major player in the U.S. electrical generation market, but it has also emerged in 2012 as THE reigning champion."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its most recent "Energy Infrastructure Update" on January 16, 2013 with data through December 31, 2012; it can be found here.

The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Lead image: Windmills and American Buffalo, via Flickr

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Ken Bossong is the Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power a...

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