Solar = #2 New Energy Source In 2013 (US)

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In 2013, natural gas accounted for 51.17% of all new US electricity generation capacity, taking the top spot for new power capacity. However, renewable energy sources weren’t too far behind, accounting for 37.16% of all new generation capacity (5,279 MW). Solar, in particular, led the way. Only second to natural gas, it added at 2,936 MW of power capacity in 2013 (55% of the new renewable capacity, or 21% of all new power capacity). Wind, with 18 projects, came after solar at 1,129 MW (21% of the new renewable capacity, 8% of all new power capacity).

However, the FERC report lists those 2,936 MW of solar power capacity as coming from only 266 “units.” In other words, this report leaves out rooftop solar power.

As for the rest of the renewable energy sources, here’s the breakdown:

  • Biomass: 777 MW with 97 units (14% of renewables, 5.4% of the total);
  • Hydroelectric power: 378 MW with 19 units (7% of renewables, 2.6% of the total);
  • Geothermal steam: 59 MW with 4 units (1% of renewables);

new us power capacity renewable energy 2013

The combined renewable power generation capacity added is 3.4 times that of coal (1,543 MW, 10.8% of the total), 138 times more than oil (38 MW, 0.27%), and nuclear, which was 0% in 2013 (nothing was added).

Here’s a broader look at the renewable energy growth trend and overall US power capacity picture, courtesy the SUN DAY Campaign:

For the two-year period (January 1, 2012 — December 31, 2013), renewable energy sources accounted for 47.38% of all new generation capacity placed in-service (20,809 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 15.97% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity:  water – 8.44%, wind – 5.20%, biomass – 1.36%, solar – 0.64%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.25%) and oil (4.05%) combined.

total us power capacity us 2013

Also, as you can see, coal power capacity is now down to 28.57% of the US power mix.

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Nicholas Brown

Has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

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56 thoughts on “Solar = #2 New Energy Source In 2013 (US)

  • Looking at wind numbers: 1.1 (2013) verse 12.4 (2012). Can anyone think the PTC fight in congress didn’t loose jobs in this country?

    • Yeah, the lack of consistency with wind policy is absurd. So harmful to the US economy and US jobs.

  • Yeah I also noticed the pitifully small number from wind. That’s good. Don’t put up any more of these monstrous things. There is no need for it.

      • I’m fine with solar because it’s flat and doesn’t stick up into the sky.
        Coal – no. But can’t see wind replacing coal.
        Natgas – yes as intermediate.
        Longterm solution nuclear thorium or fusion.

        • Thorium is not what some people think it to be. The cost of nuclear energy is not fuel, uranium is only $0.0075 per kWh, not a lot of room for savings there.

          Fusion is a long way out, if it ever works.

          If you’re having trouble seeing wind (and solar) replacing coal then you should be looking at the effort the coal industry is putting into attacking renewables. And how coal plants are starting to be replaced already.

    • Stand back, son. We’re going to install thousands upon thousands of these marvelous machines and free ourselves from fossil fuels.

      You want to see monstrous? Take a look at mountain top removal, open pit mines, uranium mines, children suffering from asthma, mines with black lung disease….

      • Those things aren’t in my face the way a wind turbine can be.
        Uranium how much is that really to mine since you need so little of it. It’s worth it.
        Asthma – is that from coal? Well replace coal with nuclear then problem solved.

        • We could replace coal with nuclear. But we’d have to pay an awful lot for our electricity and we’d really damage our economy.

        • You just have a bias against wind energy, plain and simple. They are :in your face” because you suffer from some sort of emotional hang-up about wind turbines. Opposition to wind power comes primarily from listening to too much fossil fuel company propaganda or not getting lease payments from wind energy while your neighbors do. Does this about sum it up?

        • They may not be in your face, but please consider those who live near to those sites.

          Basically everything is torn down except nuclear waste storage facilities, as mankind doesn’t know how to handle nuclear waste.

          This means that nuclear waste storage sites will continually waste more valuable land as time passes.

  • Headline check once again! Electricity isn’t the same as energy.

  • Genuinely concerned environmentalists be aware: Renewables use 30 x more steel than nuclear. That’s 29 more iron ore mines than necessary and see what just 1 did to Bellary !

    Goggle – “30 x more steel”

    • So what?

      After the turbines have produced electricity for 30, 40 or more years then the steel, copper and concrete will be recycled and turned into more turbines and other useful products.

      Reactors have to sit around for decades for things to be cooled down enough to put back into service.

      There may be more materials per MWh in turbines but the electricity is about three times cheaper. It’s cost that counts.

      • Where’s the steel going to come from for increased capacity – it’s new steel, of course! Doesn’t the extra iron ore mines needed and the associated environmental degradation count? Maybe not to an armchair, Essex-based, avowed environmentalist maybe – but it certainly did to those in and around Bellary.

        Still, that’s in India – so maybe it doesn’t count

        • The steel will come from where steel comes from.

          The price of electricity from wind is significantly cheaper than nuclear and the steel used will be recycled.

          • So Bob Wallace is not concerned about 29 times more environmental degradation than is necessary – it’s cost (cheapness) that counts.

            Sadly, we’ll still have to build nuclear powered back-up (if we want to cut GHG emissions), for when the wind don’t blow and the Sun don’t shine (91% of the time, in Germany).

          • What I am concerned about is getting our carbon dioxide and other green house gases reduced as much as possible as quickly as possible.

            I recognize that many of the people making energy decisions do not share that same concern and/or have their options limited by financial restraints.
            If we want to cut GHG levels we will need to use the cheapest alternatives which are wind and solar, not nuclear. And we are greatly aided by those technologies which come on line fastest which also are wind and solar, not nuclear.

            Wind, solar and nuclear all have relatively small CO2 footprints, wind being lower than nuclear. That means that while wind might use more materials per MWh it’s still a better choice in environmental terms.

            As for Germany, they are getting rid of nuclear because they no longer wish to live with that danger in their neighborhoods. And while doing so they are cutting fossil fuel use, lowering their GHG output and enjoying one of the two most reliable grids in Europe.

          • Face it, Colin.

            Nuclear is a dead man walking….

          • See that pic in your blog?

            See how it’s got all those new coal plants being built?

            See the first pic in my first link?

            See how it’s the same, except with all the canceled coal plants marked?

            See how my link was published over 10 months before your blog?

            See how you’re being a lying scumbag?

          • “See how the GHGs keep going up and up.”

            Minor upticks, I wonder why?

            Oh, right this is why:

          • And for a policy of massive deployment of renewables, this is a success story?

            Come on – spin me an answer.

          • “And for a policy of massive deployment of renewables, this is a success story?”

            Shut down nuclear plants for safety reasons and natural gas plants for cost reasons and have carbon emissions barely budge? I’d call that a success.

            What do you think would have happened without the Energiewende?

            What’s the story going to be when nuclear continues to fail and renewables keep getting installed and fossil fuels keep being closed?

          • The story’s going to be what’s happening here in the UK, now that the idiotic renewables policy is crumbling and lots of genuine 24/7 nuclear power, on demand, will be keeping the lights on.

          • “The story’s going to be what’s happening here in the UK, now that the idiotic renewables policy is crumbling and lots of genuine 24/7 nuclear power, on demand, will be keeping the lights on.”

            So you’re pining your hopes on Hinkley C?

            Yeah, you’re going to fail so hard.

          • Move out of your dream world and into the real world. Soon, when there are 9.5 billion of us, the three quarters of the population who now use one quarter of the energy, will want and deserve just as much energy as you and I get.

            Nuclear, and only nuclear, can meet this vast demand and stand any chance of maintaining peace and stability for future generations.

            Google: “endorse nuclear energy push” – pragmatists know what needs to be done.

          • “Move out of your dream world and into the real world.”

            but my dream world is so cool! The sky is blue here, and it’s round too!

            “Soon, when there are 9.5 billion of us, the three quarters of the population who now use one quarter of the energy, will want and deserve just as much energy as you and I get.”

            So you know how evil it is to tell them “If you be good and stay away from renewables, nuclear will come and save you”?

            “Nuclear, and only nuclear, can meet this vast demand and stand any chance of maintaining peace and stability for future generations.”

            And as long as you believe that with all your heart and keep repeating it…

            You’ll fail, because energy supplies don’t run on faith alone.

            “Google: ‘endorse nuclear energy push’ – pragmatists know what needs to be done.”

            Funny, for pragmatists, your plan requires a lot of Sky-Cake to work.

          • There’s no way pragmatist humour can compete with the peculiar sense of humour blighting the light-headed believers in the ‘renewables solution’. The humour, as with the ‘solution’ doesn’t seem to make much sense.

          • “The humour, as with the ‘solution’ doesn’t seem to make much sense.”

            I wonder why?

            (Ignorance, it’s because you’re ignorant).

          • Conclusion: Believing in the ‘renewables solution’ makes one superior in knowledge and/or manners.

            Hadn’t noticed, in your case.

          • “Conclusion: Believing in the ‘renewables solution’ makes one superior in knowledge and/or manners.”

            Yep! That’s why I have facts and you have rhetoric.

            P.S. It’s far less rude to call someone a lying scumbag, then it is to be a lying scumbag.

          • Your level of eloquence is matched only by the quality of your ‘facts’.

          • It’s pretty clear that if you folks turn to nuclear then your electricity prices are heading up while the countries that are installing renewables are looking forward to cheaper electricity.

            That’s going to put a crimp in your ability to compete in the world economy.

          • Why do we hear so much about the dire economic consequences of Germany’s decisions on renewables?

          • Because the fossil fuel industry is fighting for its life. Because people with money invested in the coal and nuclear industries are running scared.
            And because the right wing US press is dumping misinformation into the mix.
            How often have you seen the sources you read report that the wholesale price of electricity has fallen by 50% in the last few years? That the price of industrial electricity in Germany has been falling for the last few years and is lower than the EU27 average? That Germany’s grid is one of the most reliable in Europe?

            How often have your right wing sources told you that the high price of German retail electricity has nothing to do with the price of electricity but everything to do with taxes added to utility bills?

            How much do you do to spread that misinformation?

          • Taxes have to come from somewhere to run an economy. Any idea why the government choose to put it on energy?

          • I’m not sure but I suspect that the decision was made to heavily tax electricity in order to promote efficiency. That seems to be the case for gas/diesel in much of Europe.

            Interestingly German industry gets their electricity sans the taxes charged to retail users and is benefiting from falling wholesale prices. They are paying nothing for the renewables that are making their electricity cheaper.

          • Maybe it’s because electricity from renewables is really, really expensive and they just want to spread the tax-jam as thinly as possible, through general taxation?

          • No, renewable are bringing down the cost of electricity and saving the German grid money.

            Many of the taxes on retail electricity have nothing to do with electricity.

          • “Why do we hear so much about the dire economic consequences of Germany’s decisions on renewables?”

            For the same reason we heard so much about Saddam’s WMDs?

          • Strange how you can’t hold the ‘lies’ at bay, isn’t it? It’s been happening to nuclear for 30 years – mainly from renewables supporters, wouldn’t you know – and now it’s your turn not to be wanted.

          • Just lie, lie, lie more, that’s the way it is with you fallout boys?

            Enjoy the long destruction of your industry.

          • Wonder what you’ll tell your grand children, when they’re enjoying 24/7, on demand electricity from their local Small Modular Breeder Reactor, in a country where it’s unecessary to replace the short-lived, clapped-out wind turbines and fields full of solar pv.

            “Macabre indiference” guarantees that nuclear will prevail – Google it.

          • If is happens then it will be real.

            So far it hasn’t happened, so it isn’t real.

          • There have been no lies told against nuclear. The lies are told for nuclear.

            We’re continually told how nuclear energy is cheap and how nuclear energy is safe when, in fact, it is neither.

          • The Royal Academy of Engineers have no axe to grind – plenty of temporary ‘green’ engineering jobs in renewables and plenty of real engineering jobs in nuclear.

            See what they have to say – Google “the costs of generating electricity”

  • RE: However, the FERC report lists those 2,936 MW of solar power capacity as coming from only 266 “units.” In other words, this report leaves out rooftop solar power.

    This is yet another failure by the FERC to be completely factual to the public that it is supposed to be working for, choosing instead to “twist” its report to make things like “less grim” for their traditional Big Energy Utilities.

    Perhaps someone can suggest what the above numbers would be IF rooftop solar was added it!

    My guess is that the “actual” numbers would then show a trend that would make adding anything but Solar (of all flavors) a step backwards in time, something that WallStreet would never support in these tough economic times; especially since ever more rate payers are demanding clean, safe renewable energy from both their state regulators and their Utilities.

    Here is just one recent example (from California) of the many petitions that are now being forwarded, demanding better from the regulators of an industry that is still reluctant to change its ways:

    Tell the PUC: Replace San Onofre with 100% clean energy!

  • I like to suggest that the symbol ☢ replace the zero in the FERC chart:

    Top Sources of New US Power Capacity (2013)

    That would identify nuclear not only as “old school” but risky to humans. One only has to consider the Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster caused by the 3/11/11 triple meltdown at Fukushima (which is still ongoing) to understand why using nuclear is no longer in the best long term interest of mankind.

  • Wow, comparing nameplate capacity again are we?

    When the sun stops going down and it is always sunny, tell me. Until then comparing the nameplate capacity of solar with the nameplate capacity of coal or natural gas is simple dishonesty.

  • I’m kind of blown away by how small Solar is as a component of our total energy mix. 7Gigawatts represent less than 1% of total capacity but I guess since almost half was installed in the last year that is a positive trend.

    • Warning.

      Abrupt change commencing.

Comments are closed.