Published on April 20th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


92.1% of New Electricity Capacity From Renewables In 1st Quarter of 2014

April 20th, 2014 by  

Marking renewable energy project growth is fun and exciting, but more important is to put it into broader perspective. How much is renewable energy growing compared to other sources? How much of our electricity capacity and supply does it account for right now? How much is it cutting our use of fossil fuels? This Solar Love repost answers some of those questions for the US market. Enjoy!

51% of New US Electricity Capacity In 1st Quarter Came From Solar Energy, 92% From Renewables (CHARTS) (via Solar Love)

If you love solar, you’re going to love electricity capacity trends in the US. In the first quarter of 2014, over 51% of new electricity generation capacity came from solar (51% excludes small and medium rooftop solar projects), and renewable energy…

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Very good!

    But a small question comes into mind: where is the date of this article and many other ones of Cleantechnica? One can deduce the date by looking at the address bar. Sometimes one can estimate the date by looking at the comments, if there are any. But these processes are strange and not healthy!

    Can the dates be added explicitly to the articles themselves?

    Thanks in advance and good luck in this issue in particular and in Cleantechnica (an interesting and valuable website) and other issues in general.

  • spec9

    If we keep adding solar & wind at a fast pace, I don’t see much reason for any new centralized plants to be built other than to replace old centralized plants that are retired. All net new capacity should be renewable.

    • Bob_Wallace

      No real need to replace those old centralized plants.

  • Doug Cutler

    Not so fast all you green tech hippies! These nameplate numbers are misleading. The sun don’t shine every day. To tell the real story we need to do a capacity factor (CF) analysis. How much of the time is the nameplate capacity actually being utilized?

    So let’s see, using ballpark EIA CF numbers . . . ch, ch, ch, ch, ch . . . Natural Gas 42%; Solar – say 15% average if some of it is in sunnier climes; Wind – I guess I’ll give you 40% for these newer high efficiency installations (notice how generous I am); Hydro 40%; Biomass 34%; and Geothermal – had to go to Bloomberg there for a global average of 73%, whoa!

    OK, so lets tally this up and see if these foolish renewables are still in the lead, muhaha . . . ch, ch, ch . . . rounding up that gives us Natural Gas 38, Solar 88, Wind 171 . . . ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch . . . Hydro 3, Biomass 3, Geothermal 22 . .

    That gives us a grand totals projected ACTUAL POWER of:

    38Mw for fossil fuels and

    287Mw for total renewables.

    So there, take that renewables. Not such a rosie picture now, is it? Wait! WHAT?!!! . . . .

    • Bob_Wallace

      In 2011 nameplate capacity for natural gas was 477,387 MW. Running 24/365 this should have generated 4,181,910,120 MWh. Actual generation was 1,013,689,000
      MWh for a CF of 24.2%.

      In 2012 nameplate capacity for natural gas was 485957 MW. Running 24/365 this should have generated 4,256,983,000 MWh. Actual generation was 1,225,895,000 MWh for a CF of 28.8%.
      Where are you finding the 42% numbers?

      • Doug Cutler

        Mr. Wallace, I presume . . . so, you’re supposed to be the local numbers and graphs wizard. And now you’re telling me my capacity factor for natural gas is too high? That’s just great. That pushes my painstaking calculation back towards the original 91% advantage for renewables. I can see we’re just going around in circles here.

        I’m done. Later.

      • Doug Cutler

        All clowning aside, even with a capacity factor of 42% for natural gas, renewables are off to a great start this year. Also, is new wind coming in at 40% CF or closer to 50%? I think for total renewables just to finish the year a little ahead of new FF would be huge. We’ll have to see.

        The 42% CF for natural gas is from US Energy Information Administration (EIA) as posted on Wiki. EIA has come under criticism here before for underestimation of renewables. Doesn’t necessarily mean they are padding natural gas CF, though. Veracity of this estimate is an intriguing question but beyond my skills to pursue.

        • A Real Libertarian

          That’s from 2009, Bob’s is from 2011.

        • Bob_Wallace

          The reason I asked your source is that I want to understand the difference between your numbers and mine. I make mistakes at times and I want to find out when I have and not repeat them.

          Looks like we figured out the difference – 2009 vs. 2011 and 2012.

          I’d like to know what’s pushed NG down from 42% to < 30%. I'd love to find out that it's due to more wind and solar coming on line and reducing the need for peaker power.

          As far as EIA, their predictions absolutely stink. But I've never seen anyone cast aspersions on their historical data. Sort of like an expert on the history of ancient Greece and Rome who has no idea what happened yesterday in the world.

          • Doug Cutler

            Thanks. So glad you could turn my antics into a useful line of inquiry.

      • Henry WA

        Is it really correct to say that Natural Gas has a capacity factor of 24 or 28%. With Wind and Solar (and generally also with Nuclear and Base Load Coal) the actual generation v the nameplate capacity can be used to show the capacity factor. However it is likely that Natural Gas is typically being used only when it is needed as a Peaking Plant, rather than whenever it is available. As such it is much more valuable to the system than the raw figures would indicate. If it is needed and kept in reserve, its resulting occasional use is also much more expensive than the raw cost figures would indicate.
        Don’t get me wrong, I am all for putting a cost on carbon and moving to 100% renewables when possible, but that would seem to involve much larger grids, or the regular trade and transfer between grids, substantial built-in overcapacity and substantial storage with pumped or natural hydro, where available, being the best medium.

        • Bob_Wallace

          In one case you’ve got the “plant” (wind and solar) being used when it’s available. In the other case you’ve got the plant (NG) being run when it’s needed. One is controllable and dispatchable, one isn’t.

          The capacity factor for NG is a report of how much we used those plants over the specified year.

          Yes, dispatchable generation brings an additional value in that it is dispatchable. Solar brings an additional value over onshore wind because solar production more closely matches demand.

          We can’t/don’t made decisions on price alone. Time of delivery and dispatch-ability need to be factored in as well.

          What’s interesting to me is that it looks like NG use (number of hours per year) might be dropping. That makes the cost, the LCOE, for gas rise. Rising NG electricity prices makes it easier for storage to compete. Or for overbuilding wind/solar.

  • JamesWimberley

    Geothermal continues to do well in the USA: a third as much in Q1 2014 as gas, over half its total for 2013. This is traditional hydrothermal, we are still quite a way from an EGS breakout. 24/7 availability, instant despatchability, reliability higher than anything else (even hydro can run out of water and nukes shut down for maintenance). I’ve yet to see any talking points against it. Perhaps: there are no reservoirs under Manhattan?

  • Nash

    why have solar additions for 1st qrt 2014 been lower that additions for 1st qrt 2013. are these numbers right? if they are they don’t look good for solar. hopefully this is just a short term blip.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Good question, no answer. Might just be noise.

      Back east had a pretty nasty winter, did it not? That might have pushed some installations off until spring.

    • dgaetano

      Notice that total Q1 2014 additions from all sources were half that of Q1 2013. In that context solar outperformed.

      Remember that these are utility scale power plants, the data isn’t going to be smooth, just a list of whatever utility projects happened to go online in Q1.

      • JamesWimberley

        Yes, distributed solar data aren’t included. Federalism in the US means that the data are recorded by 51+ different agencies using different systems.
        With data like thes, when will the EIA statisticians notice that something is happening?

        • Bob_Wallace

          In 2012 the EIA started reporting an estimate of distributed solar

          “Using new information, EIA combines data on utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity with customer-sited PV capacity, as reported in the graphic. EIA’s utility-scale electric generator survey has a threshold of 1 MW for reporting and, thus, does not capture most customer-sited installations. However, in 2010, electric utilities started reporting to EIA the capacity of their customers’ behind-the-meter generation, which is larger than utility-scale capacity.”

          • i won’t name names, but in January when i reported on these numbers i got in touch with someone at the EIA and that person confirmed that the numbers included in these monthly reports doesn’t include rooftop solar.

    • have to remember this is just large projects, not all the rooftop projects.

  • Will E

    Good news,
    I live in the EU, but waiting for USA taxpayers to pick up Solar and Wind and Electric Cars.
    money to be made, cannot see why you lack behind

    you did not want pay Tax for Tea
    Tea Party in front

    Republicans in front
    Democrats in front
    Liberals in front.
    for Energy Transition

  • No way

    It’s lacking a “in the US” in the headline. Now it looks like it’s world wide.

    • Sorry. In the 1st paragraph and also in the title for the other article (reposted one).

  • Ross

    What happened to the natural gas boom I keep reading about in the mainstream media?

    • No way

      Let’s hope it goes away fast. Adding more fossil fuels would be horrible.

      • ditto… the news about natural gas leaks at time of drilling and natural gas choosing the sites to include in studies about leak rates doesn’t make me confident natural gas is actually cleaner than coal.

    • spec9

      It displaced a LOT of coal. Coal used to be over 50% of the grid just a few years ago.

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