According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower combined provided more than 75 percent (75.43 percent) of the 1,229 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first quarter of 2015. The balance (302 MW) was provided by natural gas.
Specifically, during the quarter, eight new “units” of wind came on line with a combined capacity of 647 MW—accounting for 52.64 percent of all new generating capacity for the quarter. It was followed by 30 units of solar (214 MW), one unit of geothermal steam (45 MW), and one unit of hydropower (21 MW). Five units of natural gas provided the new capacity from that sector.
FERC reported no new capacity from biomass sources for the quarter nor any from coal, oil or nuclear power.
The numbers for the first three months of 2015 are similar to those for the same period in 2014 when renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided 1,422 MW of new capacity and natural gas 159 MW while coal and nuclear provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity last year.
Renewable energy sources now account for 16.92 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water—8.53 percent, wind—5.65 percent, biomass—1.38 percent, solar—1.03 percent, and geothermal steam—0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.11 percent) and oil (3.92 percent) combined. Moreover, as noted, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold.
“The trend lines for the past several years have been consistent and unmistakable,” notes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Each month, renewable energy sources—particularly wind and solar—increase their share of the nation’s generating capacity while those of coal, oil and nuclear decline.”