Wind and solar accounted for more than 98 percent of all new U.S. electrical generation placed into service in the first two months of this year, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of data just released by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commissions (FERC).
FERC’s latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” (with summary statistics for January and February 2018) also reveals that the total installed capacity of renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) now provides over one-fifth (20.4 percent) of total available U.S. generating capacity. Combined, wind and solar alone exceed one-tenth (10.2 percent) of installed capacity — a share greater than either nuclear power (9.1 percent), hydropower (8.5 percent), or oil (3.6 percent).*
FERC data show that 14 new “units” of wind, totaling 1,568 MW, came into service in January and February 2018 along with 40 units of solar (565 MW) for a total of 2,133 MW. Two units of natural gas provided another 40 MW of new capacity. No capacity additions were reported for any other energy sources (i.e., coal, oil, nuclear, hydropower, biomass, geothermal).
The report further suggests that the rapid expansion and growing dominance of renewable energy sources will continue at least through March 2021. Proposed new net generating capacity (i.e., additions minus retirements) by renewables over the next three years totals 146,717 MW or 69.2 percent of the total (i.e., 211,875 MW). Proposed new net generating capacity by wind (84,324 MW) and solar (48,814 MW) alone are 62.8 percent of the total — supplemented by hydropower (11,839 MW), geothermal (1,130 MW), and biomass (610 MW).
Most of the remaining net proposed new generating capacity to be added between now and March 2021 is accounted for by natural gas (77,421 MW, 36.5 percent). Net proposed additions by nuclear total only 1,831 MW, while those from oil are just 231 MW. FERC also lists proposed new net generating capacity from waste heat (176 MW) and “other” sources, such as fuel cells and energy storage (680 MW). Notably, the net generating capacity of coal would actually decline by 15,181 MW as 17,008 MW of coal capacity is retired, eclipsing just 1,827 MW of additions.
*Capacity is not the same as actual generation. While renewable energy capacity as of February 2018 reached 20.39 percent of the nation’s total, electrical generation was a bit lower. According to data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, electrical generation by renewable sources totaled 17.6 percent in 2017.