According to a new analysis by the SUN DAY Campaign of data recently released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), new wind and solar generating capacity have taken the lead over natural gas and all other energy sources for the first month of 2019.
The FERC’s Energy Infrastructure Update report (with data through January 31, 2019) notes that four “units” of new wind capacity (519 MW) and 18 units of new solar capacity (631 MW) each beat new natural gas capacity (one unit = 465 MW) in January. No new capacity additions were reported for any other energy sources.
FERC’s data also reveal that renewables (including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower) now account for 21.23% of total available installed U.S. generating capacity*. Five years ago, renewables were 16.24%. Therefore, the nation’s renewable energy capacity has been adding, on average, a percentage point each year.
Total wind generating capacity (97.18 GW) is rapidly closing in on that of hydropower (100.33 GW) and seems certain to overtake it sometime this year. Meanwhile the generating capacity of all renewables combined (254.57 GW) is about to surpass that of coal (264.49 GW) – again, very possibly in 2019. In addition, utility-scale solar has now surpassed 3.0% of the nation’s generating capacity (i.e., 3.09%).
Moreover, the same report indicates that proposed generation and retirements by February 2021 include net capacity additions by renewable sources of 192,724 MW compared to only 42,579 MW of net new additions by coal, oil, and natural gas combined – a nearly five-fold difference. (Note: The 2021 date may be an error by FERC. Typically, FERC provides a 3-year forecast for proposed generation additions and retirements. So possibly (or probably), FERC should have listed the date as February 2022.)
For comparison, in its January 2018 Energy Infrastructure Update, FERC listed 145,681 MW in net new proposed renewable energy capacity compared to 69,108 MW from fossil fuels. So in just one year’s time, the proposed net new renewable energy capacity has grown by a third (32.29%) while that from fossil fuel sources has dropped by almost two-fifths (38.39%).
* Capacity is not the same as actual generation. Capacity factors for nuclear power and fossil fuels tend to be higher than those for most renewables. For calendar year 2018, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that renewables accounted for a little more than17.6% of the nation’s total electrical generation – that is, a bit less than their share of installed generating capacity (over 21.2%).