Wind and solar provided all new U.S. electric capacity in January

Dive Brief:

  • All of the new utility-scale generation capacity added in the U.S. in January came from 468 MW of new wind and 145 MW of new solar, according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). There was no new nuclear, coal, natural gas, or oil generation capacity.
  • Renewables now provide 17.93% of U.S. installed electricity generation capacity, with hydropower leading at 8.56%, followed by wind at 6.37%, biomass at 1.43%, solar at 1.24%, and geothermal at 0.33%. Non-hydro installed renewable capacity, at 9.37%, beats nuclear’s 9.15% and oil’s 3.84%.
  • Year-end numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show renewables energy generation to have been higher than the agency’s forecasts. Instead of a Dec. 2105 estimate that renewable electricity use would drop 1.8% — mostly due to drought-constrained hydro — renewable energy generation grew 2.03%, comprising 13.44% of U.S. electricity generation.

Dive Insight:

Renewables, including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind, accounted for 63.85% of the 16,485 MW of new U.S. generation capacity that went online in 2015, according to the December “Energy Infrastructure Update” from FERC. There were 7,977 MW of new wind energy capacity,  — 48.39% of all new U.S. capacity and significantly more than the 5,942 MW of new natural gas. Solar was second among renewables with 2,042 MW of capacity added. 

The total installed capacity of wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal facilities of 1 MW or larger reached 109.6 GW by the end of January 2016. There is likely to be significant other capacity in distributed and non-grid-connected renewables.

Non-hydro renewables generation grew by 6.9% in 2015 and provided 7.3% of U.S. electricity generation, which represented 298,358,000 MWh of utility-scale generation. Another 12,141,000 MWh of generation came from distributed solar, along with other distributed, non-grid-connected renewables that EIA does not count in its estimates.

Solar generation grew by 49.6% in 2015, geothermal grew by 5.6%, wind grew by 5.1%, and biomass generation grew 0.3%.

Recommended Reading

Renewable Energy World: New US Generating Capacity in January is from Wind, Solar; Defying earlier U.S. EIA projections, renewable resources provide 13.5 percent of U.S. electricity in 2015; may beat EIA’s forecast by 15+ years.