In the first quarter of 2019, wind, solar, and hydropower accounted for about three-fifths (59.6%) of new energy capacity added to the U.S. electricity generation mix, according to an analysis of data released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conducted by the SUN DAY Campaign.
According to FERC’s latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” (with data through March 31, 2019), 15 units of wind accounted for 1,011 MW. In addition, 59 units of new solar provided 1,155 MW and four units of hydropower added 29 MW for a total of 2,195 MW of new energy production. By comparison, 16 units of natural gas (1,482 MW) and two units of oil (5 MW) contributed 1,487 MW. FERC reported no new capacity from coal, nuclear, or any other sources.
Utility-scale renewable energy sources (including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower) now account for 21.49% of the nation’s total installed operating generating capacity — more than double that of nuclear power (9.04%) and almost equal to that of coal (21.68%).
FERC lists currently installed solar (38.1 GW) as providing 3.19% of total U.S. generating capacity. However, FERC does not include small-scale solar (i.e., less than 1-MW) which accounts for roughly one-third of installed solar generating capacity in the U.S. Its inclusion would mean that total renewable energy generating capacity is now greater than that of coal.
A major change in FERC’s most recent monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report is the inclusion of a new column titled “High Probability Additions” in the table “Proposed Generation Additions and Retirements by April 2022.” It suggests that, over the next three years, net new additions in generating capacity by renewable energy sources will be nearly 100-times greater than those of all fossil fuel and nuclear sources combined.
New additions of natural gas will total 20,304 MW but be almost entirely offset by net retirements of coal (14,624 MW), oil (1,030 MW), and nuclear power (4,252 MW) for a net increase of only 398 MW.
Each renewable energy technology is projected to experience net new additions:
- Wind: 24,866 MW
- Solar: 12,925 MW
- Hydropower: 415 MW
- Biomass: 319 MW
- Geothermal: 280 MW
For a combined total of 38,805-MW, that is 97.5-times more net new renewable energy capacity additions than projected for fossil fuels and nuclear combined.
“With renewable energy generating capacity now equal to that of coal and new renewable capacity additions projected to vastly exceed those of fossil fuels and nuclear power over the next three years, 2019 may eventually be remembered as the beginning of the era of renewable energy dominance,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “At the least, it will prove to be yet another high-water mark for sustainable energy technologies.”
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