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Renewables Provide 25% of New U.S. Electrical Generating Capacity in First Half 2013

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 24.93 percent of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed in the first six months of 2013 for a total of 2,144 MW. That is more than that provided thus far this year by coal (1,579 MW - 18.36 percent), oil (26 MW - 0.30 percent), and nuclear power (0 MW - 0.00 percent) combined. However, natural gas dominated the first half of 2013 with 4,852 MW of new capacity (56.41 percent).

Among renewable energy sources, solar led the way for the first half of 2013 with 94 new "units" totaling 979 MW followed by wind with 8 units totaling 959 MW. Biomass added 36 new units totaling 116 MW while water  had 8 new units with an installed capacity of 76 MW and geothermal steam had one new unit (14 MW).

For the month of June 2013 alone, six new solar projects in North Carolina and one in New Mexico came on-line with a total capacity of 15 MW while a single 4-MW hydropower project was also added.  No new capacity was reported for the month for natural gas but coal and oil had additions of 618 MW and 26 MW respectively. 

For the first half of 2013, compared to the first half of 2012, new capacity from all sources declined by 16.16% (from 10,259 MW to 8,601 MW). However, solar capacity grew by 3.70 percent while natural gas capacity increased by 12.47 percent. Water power saw a more than ten-fold increase from 7 MW in the first six months of 2012 to 76 MW thus far in 2013.

Renewable sources now account for nearly 16 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity:  hydro - 8.52 percent, wind - 5.17 percent, biomass - 1.31 percent, solar - 0.48 percent, and geothermal steam - 0.33 percent.  This is more than nuclear (9.05 percent) and oil (3.51 percent) 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 14 percent according to the most recent data (i.e., as of April 2013) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

Lead image: Wind turbine via Shutterstock

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