Renewables Provide 56 Percent of New US Electrical Generating Capacity in First Half of 2014

According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower provided 55.7 percent of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of 2014 (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed).

Solar alone has accounted for nearly a third of new U.S. generating capacity thus far in 2014: 32.1 percent (1,131 MW). Wind provided 19.8 percent (699 MW), followed by biomass (2.5 percent – 87 MW), geothermal (0.9 percent – 32 MW), and hydropower (0.5 percent – 16 MW). 

Most of the balance (1,555 MW – 44.1 percent) of the new generating capacity was provided by natural gas while no new coal or nuclear power capacity was reported.

The dominant role being played by renewables in providing new electrical generating capacity in 2014 is continuing a trend now several years in the making. Over the past 30 months (i.e., since January 1, 2012), renewable energy sources have accounted for almost half (48.0 percent) or 22,774 MW of the 47,446 MW of new electrical generating capacity.

If calendar year 2011 is also factored in, then renewables have accounted for approximately 45 percent of all new electrical generating capacity over the past three and a half years. In fact, since January 1, 2011 renewables have provided more new electrical generating capacity than natural gas (31,345 MW vs. 29,176 MW) and nearly four times that from coal (8,235 MW)

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.28 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity:  water – 8.57 percent, wind – 5.26 percent, biomass – 1.37 percent, solar – 0.75 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent.  This is up from 14.76 percent two years earlier (i.e., June 30, 2012) and is now more than nuclear (9.24 percent) and oil (4.03 percent) combined. Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the United States now totals about 14 percent according to the most recent data (i.e., as of April 2014) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

An EIA report is projecting that renewable energy sources will account for only 24 percent of new capacity additions between now and 2040. However, the latest FERC data coupled with that published during the past several years indicate that EIA's numbers are once again low-balling the likely share — and probably dominant share — of renewables in the nation's future energy mix.

Lead image: Wind turbines via Shutterstock

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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 and fossil fuels.

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