New Capacity From Renewables Is 3,500 Times More Than That From Coal

by North American Windpower Staff on February 03, 2016

Coming in first place for all renewable sources of energy, wind power accounted for nearly half of all new generating capacity 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 wind added 7,977 MW of new generating capacity – or 48.39% of all new capacity. In addition, that amount is a third more than the 5,942 MW provided by natural gas.

Among other renewable sources, solar added 2,042 MW, followed by biomass with 305 MW, hydropower with 153 MW and geothermal steam with 48 MW. Setting a new annual record, renewable sources accounted for almost two-thirds (63.85%) of the 16,485 MW of new electrical generation placed in service.

FERC reports no new capacity from nuclear power and just 15 MW from oil and 3 MW from coal. Thus, new capacity from renewable energy sources during 2015 (10,525 MW) was more than 700 times greater than that from oil and over 3,500 times greater than that from coal, according to SUN DAY.

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

For perspective, 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, says SUN DAY, 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 has plummeted from 30.37% to 26.16%.

Finally, for the first time, installed electrical capacity from non-hydro renewables (108.34 GW) has now eclipsed that of nuclear power (107.03 GW), according to SUN DAY.

“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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