Report: Renewables Contributed 3,500 Times More New U.S. Capacity Than Coal Did Last Year


Renewable sources, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydropower, accounted for almost two-thirds (63.85%) of the 16,485 MW of new electrical generation placed in service in the U.S. last year, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Citing the FERC statistics, nonprofit SUN DAY Campaign says 69 new “units” of wind accounted for 7,977 MW of new generating capacity – or nearly half (48.39%) of all new capacity for the year. That is a third more than the 5,942 MW of new capacity provided by 50 units of natural gas.

Among the other renewable sources, solar placed second with 2,042 MW (238 units), followed by biomass with 305 MW (26 units), hydropower with 153 MW (21 units), and geothermal steam with 48 MW (two units).

FERC reports no new capacity at all for the year from nuclear power and just 15 MW from 10 units of oil and only 3 MW from a single new unit of coal. Thus, new capacity from renewable energy sources during 2015 (10,525 MW) is more than 700 times greater than that from oil and over 3,500 times greater than that from coal, according to SUN DAY Campaign.

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.83% of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: hydro – 8.56%, wind – 6.31%, biomass – 1.43%, solar – 1.20%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. The share of total installed capacity from non-hydro renewables (9.27%) now exceeds that from conventional hydropower (8.56%).

For perspective, SUN DAY says when FERC issued its very first Energy Infrastructure Update in December 2010, renewable sources accounted for only 13.71% of total installed operating generation capacity. Over the past five years, solar’s share has increased 12-fold (1.20% vs. 0.10%), while that from wind has nearly doubled (6.31% vs. 3.40%). During the same period, coal’s share of the nation’s generating capacity plummeted from 30.37% to 26.16%.

Finally, for the first time, installed electrical capacity from non-hydro renewables (108,340 MW) has now eclipsed that of nuclear power (107,030 MW).

“If it weren’t already obvious, the latest FERC data confirm that the era of coal, oil and nuclear power is rapidly drawing to a close,” says Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The future – in fact, the present – has become renewable energy!”

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