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Solar Growth Beat Out Natural Gas In First Half Of 2014

New figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) released earlier this week concluded that natural gas leads solar in terms of new power plant capacity — a fact that is indisputable, but a fact that doesn’t tell the whole story.

According to Greentech Media, which spend a lot of time closely tracking the various energy segments, the real story should be that solar beat out natural gas in terms of new capacity, thanks to the number of small-scale commercial and residential solar projects.

The EIA figures compare new power plant growth for the first half of 2013 and 2014.


As can be seen, natural gas has a clear lead in 2014, but it’s a lead reliant upon minimizing the scope of the numbers. By excluding commercial and residential solar projects of less than 1 MW, solar shows strong growth, but it doesn’t show the whole of its growth.

The figures change when you include these smaller projects. According to GTM Research there were 2,478 MW of solar projects added to the US electricity grid in the first half of 2014.

us pv installations

US Solar PV Installations Image Credit: GTM Research

As a result, and when combined with the EIA’s figures for natural gas power plant additions, solar growth actually comes out ahead by 159 MW, accounting for 53% of all new additions. In fact, residential and commercial PV installations made up almost half of all installations.

The US PV pipeline is strong, and continues to grow — despite only delivering a relatively small percentage of the country’s overall electricity generation mix. New figures from market research firm IHS show that the United States accounts for 35 GW of the total of solar PV projects currently at various stages of development around the world. And though IHS believes that “a great chunk of these projects” are not necessarily expected to be completed any time soon, the drive is there (even if political and trade uncertainty are impacting negatively).

In a complete surprise to absolutely no one, California continues to defy the national norm, with massive installation growth over the first half of this year. The figures below come from the EIA, and show a healthy spread of solar and wind installation far and away greater than any other states renewable energy installations.

state by state

California continues to beat out rival states in terms of added capacity as well as generation. IHS figures showed that the state accounted for more than 50% of installations over the last four quarters.

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