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Published on November 24th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales

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⅔ of New US Electricity Capacity Was From Wind In October

November 24th, 2014 by  


Two thirds of new US electricity generation capacity were from the wind sector in October. Five wind farms, with a cumulative capacity of 547 MW, went online. There were also 102 MW of biomass and 31 of utility-scale solar power. This is becoming a familiar picture, with renewable sources accounting for the most added generation during 8 months so far this year. The only fossil fuel making strong advances is natural gas, which had 132 MW added in October, but a dominant 5373 MW added in the first 10 months of the year. There have been no new coal plants and only limited additions in the oil and nuclear sectors. The question I have is what will happen after the Republicans take control of Congress in January?

US Renewable Energy Capacity - Oct 2014

The cost of wind and solar has fallen greatly in recent years. According to an article in today’s New York Times, even without subsidies, wind power is often cheaper (as low as 3.7 cents per kWh) than coal (low of 6.6 cents per kWh) or natural gas (low of 6.1 cents per kWh). Utility-scale solar was slightly more expensive (low of 7.2 cents per kWh), but costs continue to fall.

With subsidies, wind has gotten down to 2.5 cents per kWh, as we’ve reported previously.

These prices do not include the cost of a backup for wind and solar require, or the costs in terms of human health or rising GHG emissions from fossil fuels.

Despite recent additions, America still derives most of its electricity from fossil fuels. Though there is more installed capacity of natural gas than any other sector, the real king continues to be coal. The last generation report contained data from August, at which point coal had produced 1,105,161,000 MWh for the year to date, natural gas had produced 739,215,000 MWh, wind had produced 122,022,000 MWh, and solar 10,637,000 MWh. (See this article for charts.)

“Congress is debating whether to renew the production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy sources,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The continued rapid growth of these technologies confirms that the PTC has proven to be a very sound investment.”

The tax credit for wind comes up for renewal again at the end of this year. It amounts to 2.3 cents per kWh for 10 years. Some Republicans, who want the credit dropped, indicated they want to delay the decision until they take control of congress in January.

Ironically, the self-styled “father” of  the wind production credit, Charles Grassley, is a Republican, and he is not the only Republican who supports it. More than 450 businesses and organizations have written a joint letter urging Congress to act promptly to preserve the wind production tax credit.

“We urge you to restore the expired clean and alternative energy technology and energy efficiency tax provisions during the post-election work period. Doing so will help build the economy, create jobs, and deliver a safer, healthier future for our children,” the letter states.


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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.



  • Charlotte Omoto

    I wonder if there is a way to estimate total PV capacity and generation from non-utility sources from http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-industry-data?

  • chrisbrandow

    it would be great to have this updated with residential solar installations, which would push the YTD PV solar up by a couple thousand MW

  • Trish62

    The article is deliberately misleading. It is a “feel good” article that is not that impressive when you examine the numbers more closely.

    Look at the “total capacity”, of what is out there right now;
    Solar, Wind, Geothermal 76.52.
    Total capacity 1,165.6
    -or-
    6.56% of capacity is from new renewable sources.

    I did not include water, as that is hydroelectric and to many environmentalists that is right up there with Satan and 666.

    We need to GROW the use of renewable energy at a pace that exceeds our current growth rate for all energy. The more we can grow it, then we can start seeing a decline in the other dependencies that are not renewable (oil/gas)

  • The graph used in this post is excellent. I like how it’s interactive. My issue is political. Renewables need to hold tight and woo both sides of the isle. You can’t bank on one party or the other. I live Illinois, a blue state population wise, but red geographically wise. It’s a deal making state. It also is the number one nuke state and sits on top of the largest coal bed in the nation. After 50 years of so of deal making here’s my state’s electricity mix for Aug 2014:

    http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=IL#tabs-4

    NG: 600 GWh
    Coal; 8,000 GWh
    Nuke: 8,000 GWh
    Water: 0 GWh
    Other Renewables: 400 GWh

    • There’s a ton of support for renewables on almost every level. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include Congress, presidential nominees, and many governors. It would be nice if the GOP came around. But the interconnections with fossil fuels and and publicly condoned bribery is pretty strong.

      • A good test case will be the Saudi Arabia of wind: North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Very, very red states politically, but positioned as if placed by the good lord himself. South Dakota doesn’t have oil and coal like North Dakota. Why they aren’t moving faster on wind is puzzling. I’m going to guess this will change. Illinois is number 4 wind wise. It’s just such a huge electricity user for all sectors: residential, commercial, industrial and ag. Illinois also sells its zero carbon wind and nuke to other states, which again is typical of a deal making political system.

        • Steven F

          South dakota now gets 20% of there power from wind.

          • Can electricity be transmitted across state lines? Is interstate commerce allowed in the US? I wonder where how North Dakota uses all that Bakken oil? Is there someway I can search the internet?

            Speaking of SD, that 20 percent is about 600 MW. South Dakota’s wind power capacity potential is 888,412 MW based on NREL estimates. They estimated gen at 3.4 million GWh. Wow.

            Man the wind potential of those great plains states is incredible. Check out the excel table highlighted. That’s money being pissed away.

            http://apps2.eere.energy.gov/wind/windexchange/windmaps/resource_potential.asp

  • Matt

    The problem with monthly capacity additions is it can hide the real picture. The read to date or last 12 months is a better view. Note year to date shows gas(54%), wind(22%), PV(18%). Halve the bio-mass for the year was in OCT.

    • Yeah, click from the 1st chart to the 2nd, and then to the 3rd, is a recipe for a depressing dose of reality. 😛

      Curious to see how wind does in the next 2-3 years. This year was basically another write-off, given o=how the PTC was restructured.

    • Larmion

      And even yearly capacity additions or total capacity can hide the real picture. Nuclear plants and coal plants run at much closer to their nameplate capacity than gas plants (many of which are used as peakers) and renewable plants.

      So sadly, coal is still king – thought it seems to have gone in gentle decline in much of the world.

  • JamesWimberley

    “The question I have is what will happen after the Republicans take control of Congress in January?” Nothing. That is their policy agenda anyway. They will try and fail to block the EPA regulations. The wind solar tax credits won’t be renewed (I would love to surprised though). None of this will affect the month-bu-month builds of new capacity until election year.

    “These prices do not include the cost of a backup for wind and solar ..” Don’t accept this anti-renewable talking point so easily. All sources of generation need backup, as none are 100% reliable and despatchable, though new gas plants and geothermal come close. Careful analysis by the Texas grid operator ERCOT actually found lower reserve costs for wind than for fossil fuels: the high mechanical reliability and day-ahead predictability of a diversified wind park means that it reduces the need for a spinning reserve, the most expensive sort, outweighing the need for a bigger cold reserve. Fast-forward 20 years, with wind and solar dominating supply, and we will have a big backup problem. But not today.

    • Shiggity

      You’re overlooking the increasingly viable strategy of deploying storage on large scales instead of generation. Storage assets have the advantage of turning your least profitable asset into your most profitable asset, in many cases this is far superior than simply adding more generation assets.

      • Matt

        Cheapest to deploy and lowest carbon foot print by far is still negawatts.

    • Mint

      “All sources of generation need backup”

      Yeah, but other sources share the same backup. You won’t get 20 gas plants ever drop down to 10% CF combined. In the worst case, maybe 5 of those plants go offline simultaneously. 20 connected wind farms will drop to 10% CF rather regularly.

      Spinning reserve is a red herring. Its premium is a small part of electricity costs, and the reduction you speak of is even lower. Moreover, it’ll all be replaced by cheaper and faster 30-minute battery systems anyway.

      Backup cost refers to either A) FF needed alongside wind to increase the ability to handle peak demand (which wind barely helps) or B) inability to shut down FF capacity as wind takes away its business.

      Wind’s value is in fuel use reduction, not reliability. Whatever backup exists or is built, it’ll need less fuel with wind by its side.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    Have a great title for the future
    ⅔ of All US Electricity Capacity Was From Wind In October

    • Ha, that’ll be the day….

    • just_jim

      That may never happen. With solar’s cost going down, and with hydropower already supplying 7% of electricity needs, and with the potential of Geothermal Electric, we may well get to near 100% renewable generation with less than 2/3 of it being windpower.

      Did you notice that 84% of October’s capacity installation was renewable, with only 1/6 from fossil fuels?

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