Wind, solar, and other renewable sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower) accounted for almost 95% of all new U.S. electrical generation placed into service in the first quarter of this year, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of data released today by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
FERC’s latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” (with summary statistics for January, February, and March 2018) shows that 16 new units of wind, totaling 1,793 MW, came into service in the first three months of 2018, along with 92 units of solar (1,356 MW), for a total of 3,149 MW. There also was one unit of geothermal steam (19 MW), five units of water (18 MW), and three units of biomass (3 MW).
Among non-renewable sources, six units of natural gas provided another 79 MW of new capacity, along with five units of oil (10 MW) and one unit of nuclear (4 MW). There were also six units (80 MW) defined as “other” by FERC (e.g., fuel cells, batteries, and storage). No capacity additions were reported for coal during the quarter.
FERC data also reveal that the total installed capacity of renewable energy sources now provides over one-fifth (20.69%) of total available U.S. generating capacity. Combined, wind and solar alone exceed one-tenth (10.44%) of installed capacity, a share greater than that of nuclear power (9.14%) or hydropower (8.52%) or oil (3.56%). *
FERC’s report further suggests that the rapid expansion and growing dominance of renewable energy sources will continue at least through April 2021. Proposed new net generating capacity (i.e., additions minus retirements) by renewables over the next three years totals 148,281 MW, or 70.1% of the total (211,621 MW). Proposed new net generating capacity by wind (85,625 MW) and solar (49,088 MW) alone are 63.7% of the total, supplemented by hydropower (11,824 MW), geothermal (1,130 MW), and biomass (614 MW).
Most of the remaining net proposed new generating capacity to be added between now and April 2021 is accounted for by natural gas (74,624 MW, 35.3%). Net proposed additions by nuclear total only 1,831 MW, while those from oil are just 268 MW. FERC also lists proposed new net generating capacity from waste heat (96 MW) and “other” sources (680 MW). Notably, the net generating capacity of coal actually would decline by 14,177 MW as 15,864 MW of coal capacity is retired, eclipsing just 1,687 MW of additions.
FERC’s “Energy Infrastructure Update” report was released on May 3. For the data cited in this news update, click here.
*Capacity is not the same as actual generation. While renewable energy capacity as of March 2018 reached 20.69% of the nation’s total, electrical generation was a bit lower. According to data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, electrical generation by renewable sources totaled 18.4% for the first two months of 2018.