Renewables Made Up Majority Of New U.S. Capacity – Again


Renewable energy dominated new U.S. electrical generation put into service during 2016, according to nonprofit SUN DAY Campaign.

Citing stats from the latest issue of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report, SUN DAY says newly installed capacity from renewable sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind) equaled 16,124 MW, or 61.5% of all new U.S. capacity added in 2016. SUN DAY says that exceeds newly installed capacity from natural gas (8,689 MW), nuclear power (1,270 MW), oil (58 MW) and coal (45 MW) combined.

The nonprofit notes 2016 was the second year in a row in which the majority of new generating capacity came from renewable energy sources. In 2015, renewable sources added 12,400 MW of new generating capacity, or 64.8% of the U.S. total. Almost half of new capacity (49.6%) came from renewables in 2014.

During 2016, new wind generating capacity grew by 7,865 MW and was nearly matched by new solar generating capacity (7,748 MW), according to SUN DAY’s analysis. There was also 314 MW of new hydropower capacity and 19 MW of new biomass capacity; there was no new geothermal steam capacity added in 2016.

The rapid growth of renewables – particularly solar and wind – has resulted in their seizing an ever-growing share of the country’s total generating capacity. Five years ago, renewable sources cumulatively accounted for 14.26% of total available installed generating capacity; now they provide almost one-fifth (19.17%): hydropower – 8.50%, wind – 6.92%, solar – 2.00%, biomass – 1.42%, and geothermal – 0.33%, according to SUN DAY.

Each of the non-hydro renewables has grown during the past half-decade, and their combined capacity (10.67%) is now greater than that of nuclear power (9.00%) and nearly three times that of oil (3.79%).

By comparison, SUN DAY continues, the shares of the nation’s energy capacity provided by oil, nuclear power and coal have all declined. Today, oil’s share is only 3.79%, nuclear power is 9.00% and coal is 24.65% – five years ago, they were 4.61%, 9.44% and 29.91%, respectively. The nonprofit says only natural gas has experienced modest growth, from 41.60% in 2011 to 43.23% today.

According to SUN DAY, the greatest percentage increase of any energy source has been experienced by solar, whose share of the nation’s generating capacity (2.00%) is now nearly 12 times greater than in December 2011 (0.17%). Moreover, its growth is accelerating – new solar capacity in 2016 (7,748 MW) more than doubled that added in 2015 (3,521 MW). It now exceeds that of biomass and geothermal combined, the group concludes.

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