Renewables = 92.1% of new US electricity capacity so far in 2014

top US electricity sources new
CC BY-SA 3.0 Zachary Shahan

According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office (FERC), 92.1% of new electricity generation capacity in the US in January through March of 2014 came from renewable energy sources.

In an email sent to me by the SUN DAY Campaign, it was noted that the specific breakdown on the renewables side was as follows: "solar (584 MW), wind (427 MW), geothermal steam (30 MW), biomass (10 MW), and water (8 MW)." On the other side, there was no new coal, no new nuclear, and no new oil generation capacity added to the grid. 90 MW of natural gas was added as well as 1 MW of "other." I created the chart above to better visualize all of this.

Looking at March alone, solar (151 MW), wind (93 MW), and hydropower (1 MW) provided 84.5% of new capacity. Of course, as I noted in January when I wrote that solar was the #2 source of new US generation capacity in 2013, this only includes large projects, not the thousands of homes and businesses that have been putting solar panels on their roofs. The 151 MW of solar added in March came from just 9 projects. The January through March total for solar came from 47 projects.

With solar power costs dropping off a very steep cliff and offering an excellent return on investment for homeowners, businesses, and larger developers, expect to see this trend continue indefinitely. Also, it's worth noting that wind power, while it can't compete with retail electricity prices like solar can, is often the cheapest option for new electricity capacity. It will certainly keep growing at a decent rate.

As far as total generation capacity, things aren't so rosy (as you can see in the chart above). It takes a long time to transform the electricity industry. Even if solar farms and wind farms can go up quickly, it's no small decision for a utility to shut down an existing power plant. But we're getting there. "Renewable energy sources, including hydropower, now account for 16.3% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water - 8.58%, wind - 5.27%, biomass - 1.37%, solar - 0.75%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.25%) and oil (4.04%) combined," the SUN DAY Campaign noted. One month at a time...

Have you done your part? Got solar yet?

Renewables = 92.1% of new US electricity capacity so far in 2014
We still need a ton more renewable energy in order to combat climate change, but the good news is that renewable energy is picking up the pace.

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