Biomass US Renewable Energy Capacity 2014

Published on February 3rd, 2015 | by Roy L Hales


Solar & Wind = 53% Of New US Electricity Capacity In 2014

February 3rd, 2015 by  

Editor’s Update: Following comparisons with 2013 NREL figures just released last week, I’ve updated the estimates for “other solar” in the charts and table below, as well as Roy’s text where it was affected (just in the first line of his second paragraph). This changes all of the totals and the percentages slightly, but not substantially. The overall story is the same. —Zachary Shahan

Originally published on the ECOreport.

unnamedIt has been 37 years since Dr Allan Hoffman gave President Jimmy Carter the plan that could have started America’s renewable revolution. The idea was shelved after Reagan was elected. Hoffman waited, as administration after administration ignored the potential, until Barack Obama was elected. The retired senior Department of Energy executive views the growth of US renewables during 2014 as a vindication of what he and his colleagues saw decades ago. Solar & wind = 53% of new US electricity capacity in 2014.

CleanTechnica estimates that 54.9% of the installations made in December came from these two sectors and 53.3% of the installations for the year as a whole.

US Renewable Energy Capacity - Dec 2014 - Final for now

“If the CleanTechnica chart is accurate, more than half of the new capacity added last year is from renewables. This is very significant. I pinch myself when I see these numbers and I am very grateful to see the transition move to the extent it has,” said Hoffman.

Though natural gas was still the leading single energy source, in terms of installations during 2014, its 7.5 GW of added capacity is overshadowed by close to 10 GW from the renewable sector.

“There is no doubt that natural gas will be with us for decades, but I don’t see it as a long-term option,” said Hoffman. “Right now it is exciting. We will probably use more natural gas in transportation. It is perfectly suited for that, if you build the right kind of car, but I think electrification is the answer for most forms of transportation in the future.”

He used the automotive sector to illustrate what is happening with fossil fuels. The trend is to electrification. Around 70% of car trips, in the US, are less than 40 miles. EVs can supply this, but there is still a need for a gas or diesel back-up on longer trips, great charging facilities, a second car in the household for those trips, or a rental or borrowed car.

“There are a lot of vested interests protecting fossil fuel use. You are going to see a determined battle from the petroleum industry, who want to continue their role in transportation. That doesn’t change overnight. Cars are on the road for an average of 10 to 12 years in the United States. They need petroleum, so that’s going to be with us for a while,” said Hoffman. “But I don’t think the fossil fuel industry can win this battle over the long-term and the smart companies will be switching over eventually.”

He added, “We will still have fossil fuels in 2050, but it will be a diminishing fraction. We will move increasingly to electrification. Our children and grandchildren will eventually drive electric cars.”
Alternatives, like biofuels and biojet diesel, will eventually replace fossil fuels in sectors like aviation. The US Airforce is already moving in that direction. Even the US Navy, which uses bunker fuel to power many of its ships, is switching over.

Screenshot 2015-02-02 16.08.08

The 4 GW of wind capacity added in 2014 is impressive, but Hoffman believes the real future of this sector is offshore.

“I consider offshore wind to be the most important and exciting emerging renewable technology. When you go offshore, the winds are stronger and more steady. That’s really critical because more steady winds produce a higher capacity factor. A larger fraction of the potential is realized in generating energy, which is really the ultimate test. The other thing is that with higher speeds, the economics become much better. The energy extracted from the wind goes as the third power of the wind speed. So if you double the wind speed, you get eight times the power out of that machine,” said Hoffman.

Developers can also build larger turbines than on land. There are a lot of logistics involved, but 6 to 7 MW turbines are presently common offshore. Hoffman has seen plans for 10 MW to 15 MW and even a 20 MW turbine.

“Of course there will be hurricanes and things like that and these machines have to hold up under those conditions, but I have confidence we can do that.”

“The resource available in offshore wind is very, very large. Look at the United States. It has four coastal regions: The East Coast; The West Coast; The Gulf Coast; and the Great Lakes Coast. There is a lot of wind available.”


There is a potential for close to 4,000 GW of capacity, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (2010) report Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power In The United States. This figure needs to be reduced, by subtracting areas (like shipping lanes) where you cannot put wind turbines, but the potential is still HUGE.

“To put this number in perspective, the United States’ present potential for generating electricity is just over 1,000 GW,” said Hoffman. “So even if only a fraction of offshore potential is realized, we have a major source of energy coming online in the future.”

Though the US has been slow to adopt offshore wind, Hofffman expects that to change in the next few years. It will start on the East Coast, where the winds are strong and where a large part of the population lives.
 The 5.2 GW of new solar capacity added in 2014 is also impressive, but just a beginning. The potential for growth in this sector is enormous.

Screenshot 2015-02-02 15.02.26

“Solar may be the fastest growing energy source in the world today. Look at what’s happening in Germany. There are days when more than half the electricity comes from solar and Germany is not a particularly sunny country,” said Hoffman. “So I can see that happening in the United States. States like Nevada, Arizona have an incredible solar input.”

“There has been a lot of resistance from utilities. They have resisted net metering and other simplified connections to the grid because they see it as diminishing the importance of their business model. They make a lot of money selling energy at peak hours, when electricity is more expensive. If solar provides energy during those peak hours, their business model is upset. They are going to resist it for as long as they can because change is hard for people to accept.”

This battle is already over in Germany, where the four major utilities have now switched over to become providers of solar energy. They lease solar systems, maintain them, and are now offering energy storage for homes. Hoffman perceives the utility model of a centralized grid as a relic from the past. There will be more of a variety of systems in the future. Some people will utilize battery storage to be independent of the grid, there will be more local microgrids, regional grids, and possibly even a global multinational grid.

“I have no question that this is happening. It’s happening as we speak. It will unfold over the next decades, but I think it is inevitable,” said Hoffman.

Though he believes both nuclear energy and natural gas will continue for several decades, Hoffman predicts their importance will diminish. Environmental pressures and economic realities are pushing the US into renewables.

Screenshot 2015-02-02 15.23.56

“Eventually Congress will have to move in this direction, even Republicans can get the message,” he said. “What’s going to happen is that people are going to be talking to their members of Congress. The business community has a major impact on Congress and they are going to see it is in their interest to move ahead with a clean energy system.” The US needs to adopt an energy plan, so that people have certainty about the future. Businesses need it, so they can formulate their own strategies.

“Climate change is real and it has adverse effects, but they are long-term effects,” said Hoffman. “Someone has to do the long-term thinking to protect this generation as well as future generations from having to deal with it under less desirable conditions.”

Despite the resistance in Congress, Hoffman believes a carbon tax is inevitable. “Putting a price on emissions” is probably the best way to reduce them. The revenues can be used to reduce other taxes, like income tax, or redistributed to low-income persons who are adversely affected by increased energy costs due to a carbon tax.
“I think there are a lot of tradeoffs on a carbon tax that would not only address carbon emissions, but that could also provide revenues that can be applied to other aspects of our economy,” said Hoffman.

“I see the early stages of what I consider an inevitable transition away from traditional energy sources, largely fossil fuel sources but also including nuclear to some extent, to an increasing reliance on renewable energy in the form of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and eventually ocean energy as well.

“I have been saying this was inevitable for many years, but for a long time it was hard to get people to accept that. I think we’re seeing it happen. When you look at the numbers, both from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regularity Commission (FERC) you can see that the transition is beginning to take place. The new capacity that is coming online is largely renewables.”

Image credits above:

  • Dr Allan Hoffman (provided by Dr Hoffman)
  • Table & charts depicting US capacity added in 2013, 2014, & December 2014 & 2013 (CleanTechnica)
  • Lillgrund Wind Farm, Near Copenhagen by Håkan Dahlström via Flickr (CC By SA, 2.0 License)
  • Offshore Wind Resource Potential (NREL)
  • Powerfilm Solar Panel by Stephan Ridgway via Flickr (CC By SA, 2.0 License)
  • Library of Congress by Juan Llanos via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report.
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

is the editor of the ECOreport (, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America and writes for both CleanTechnica and Planetsave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over a thousand articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

  • 1848

    This article insults the intelligence of anyone familiar with power production. It compares nameplate capacity of intermittent power producers to that of constant power producers and doesn’t even bother to mention that fact. The author is being much less than honest with what he is trying to get you to believe. Shame of the author for putting out this half truth.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Are you aware that the CF for onshore wind is now typically above 40% with some new wind farms reporting over 50%? And that the CF for NG in the US is under 30%, not much different from solar?

      Best to know stuff before spouting off….

      • 1848

        Because they figured how to make the wind blow more? Good luck with that one.

        And you’re not fooling anyone who thinks with their own mind rather than reading mindless trash like this when you compare CF for peaking NG power production with the CF of wind farms.

        Why bother trying to fool people with your half truths? People will find out the truth either now, or later when they find that the energy production you were proclaiming doesn’t exist in real life.

        • Bob_Wallace

          No. Because we’re moving to taller towers (stronger, cleaner wind), using better blade designs, using better wind change predictions, and better software. Maybe some other stuff.

          Should I bother digging out links for you or would it be a waste of time? You appear to be one of those closed minded people.

          • 1848

            Yep – Show me that CREDIBLE report that shows “CF for onshore wind is now typically above 40%”.

            Let me repeat the word credible. That means something non-biased.


          • Bob_Wallace

            From an email that Zach (he runs this site) received from GE –

            “While we cannot share specific numbers from our customers’ sites unless they release it already or it’s public information, but we’re definitely seeing some above 50 percent capacity factors at many farms.

            Capacity factors obviously vary across wind farms due to a wide range of site locations and other factors. GE wind turbines in farms across the United States—in states such as Montana, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas—have reached capacity factors of over fifty percent over the last two years (2013-14).

            These sites include a variety of GE wind turbine models and installation dates, and each site has registered capacity factors ranging from 50.4 to 52.4 percent, including availability at around 98 percent.”

          • 1848

            emails from Zach do not qualify as a credible source. Beyond that the “email” doesn’t even even support your claim “”CF for onshore wind is now typically above 40%”.

            Want to try to come up with a real source that is actually credible that actually supports the claim you spouted out?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, of course email to Zach from the official spokesperson at GE don’t qualify as a credible source to you. The information contained is contrary to your closely held beliefs.

            Suspicions confirmed. Your mind is shut. Not wasting any more time on you. If you want you can check CFs at and run back their links.

            Or just go back to watching the pretty girls on Fox….

          • 1848

            You spouted your made up numbers. You continue to fail at backing them up.

            Exactly what I expected.

  • GraceAdams830

    GOP will definitely stand by fossil fuel! United States is a fascist state with government of by and for big business. The only way a carbon tax could ever be anywhere near acceptable would be if it were paired with a tax on energy regardless of carbon footprint and all the revenue from both taxes used to maintain the income of all our too big to fail fossil fuel firms, as a percentage of GDP for each too big to fail fossil fuel firm.

  • jfreed27

    Hip, hip, hooray!!

    Most of the negative comments are like, “what if the wind doesn’t blow?” or “How to solve the ‘baseload’ problem?” Any thoughts?

    • RobMF

      This rationale has been proven false again and again. We have entire cities that run on renewables. Soon entire states. But the base unit for civilization is the city. So if you can run a whole city on renewables, the intermittency and base load arguments are pretty much moot.

      In essence, solar is a peaking source and wind tends to blow when the sun doesn’t shine. Hydro is base load as is biogas, biomass, and geothermal. Storage is base load as well — and storage costs just get cheaper and cheaper making more and more worthwhile.

      Wind outcompetes coal on cost. Solar now beats nat gas — edging out coal in some places.

      With the added issue of climate change, there is no excuse not to transition. Renewables are better than fossil fuels any day of the week.

      • jfreed27

        Thanks, RobMF!

    • I think it would be best to indicate that it is another problem that is being tackled, and will be solved by combination of storage capacity and more efficient transfer and usage timing (“smart grid” and smart appliances). I would not claim it as being a myth, since these are very real problems — however, they are not fundamentally unsolvable problems, just ones that have not yet been solved. And engineers are best at solving imminent problems (not hypothetical ones): this is the problem “whose time has come”.

      The way to think of this is that the first problem — that of generating energy affordable — is being resolved at this point. Generation is affordable enough, and only getting more so as time goes. 5 years from now one, past worries of super-expensive electricity from wind sounds very quaint.

      But it took quite a while, and consumed lots of resources (in form of subsidies). Solving intermittency problem is just one more piece of the puzzle; solving it only really makes sense once there is actual benefit from doing so.
      Before current (still small but growing) RE production rates the storage did not matter as much; which is why while it has been studied for a while, it hasn’t had similar breakthroughs as wind generator or solar panels prices have had. Production capacity is growing because of both research and mass production, positive feedback loop. Storage has not yet had this cycle. But it will, now that it is the number one problem to solve. Such problems attract researchers and engineers like nothing else: meaningful, transformative problems to solve.

      • jfreed27

        That makes good sense. Bottom line: it is a problem to be solved, not a deal breaker.

        I think the problem is possibly greater in Scotland, for example, than the U.S. as we have a wider menu of options (solar/wind) to even it out. But, Scotland may be the first nation to go 100% RE, anyway.

    • GraceAdams830

      The base load problem is negative prices for nuclear power in the wee hours of the morning. The solution is a nice big utility size battery next to each nuclear power plant. Nice big utility size batteries are also the solution to the what to do when the wind doesn’t blow problem. Geothermal, hydro where it is still viable and organic waste materials to energy are dispatchable which is also a big help with those two problems.

  • Rob Lewis

    While a carbon tax is a nice idea, and might have worked to save the planet if enacted 20 years ago, it’s too little too late in our current predicament. We will have to act more aggressively to limit carbon emissions to hold global temperature rise to 2°C or less. See Naomi Klein’s new book, “This Changes Everything”.

    • RobMF

      Fossil fuel abolition.

    • Nonetheless, carbon tax would certainly help. As usual, perfect is the enemy of good; and it is important to do things that improve chances and not just ones seen to guarantee happy outcome.

      • Rob Lewis

        Yes, let’s go ahead and do it. But the danger is thinking “There: problem solved!” It has the additional disadvantage of encouraging us to believe that ANY carbon at all is acceptable and normal.

    • Matt

      Since much of the work thinks it runs on a “free market” economy. It is normally best to work within that myth. And it is two little to late. Dream a second, two items happen:

      1) Developed world drop FF subsidies. Has kind of already been agreed to. Even OPEC nations are call for it.

      2) EU and US both start a CO2 tax $100/ton raising $10/ton each quarter. Plus those nasty detail on imports from non-participating countries.
      3) A big push to get others in G20 to join and keep spreading it outward.
      This removes the “but it will kill the economy” argument. Start 16/jan/1 $100, 17-$140, 18-$180, 19-$240, 20-$280. Industry knows what is coming and can move to maximize their return. Also large industry in countries not on the plan will pressure their government to join in to avoid costs on their exports into those in the plan.

  • RobMF

    Actually, it may be better than this report indicates. According to SEIA, about 7.2 GW of solar capacity was installed in 2014:

    • Thanks. Capacity additions are a bit hard to estimate without a ton of inside knowledge. I originally had something similar to what SEIA has… but then changed the projection based off of 2013 NREL & 2014 FERC numbers. However, I intend to come back to this post and update it when SEIA & GTM Research come out with their 2014 report… so maybe I should have just gone with SEIA’s latest estimate. There are different methods, and it’s hard to say which is genuinely the best for us to take.

      • RobMF

        The wind association also notes slightly more wind than this report — 4.7 GW. Of course the numbers are preliminary. But this year was almost certainly another growth year for solar and a big resurgence for wind.

  • Matt

    My concern is this:
    -solar total drop from 6.4 to 5.2 GWs
    -While wind looks up compare to 2013, if you skip 13, you have to go back to 2006 to get a number less than 4.1 (see awea).

    This is not good news! Blame who/what you like, but we need a stronger build out now. We need to fight for a market correction that will direct the flow of funds. With all the direct and indirect(health/environment/PUC leanings) subsidies that we give to FF, it is a wonder any RE is built. The best approach is a CO2 user fee, pulled from emitters and return to individuals. And it should not start tiny. With costs placed the $200-$600/ton range we need something that reflects that cost. Sure start “small” $100/ton and go up every quarter by $10. Once it get to $500 can study how much higher it need to go or if it can drop to CPI index.

    • eveee

      Blame it on the two week 2014 wind PTC and a do nothing congress.

    • RobMF

      Actually, these numbers are likely incorrect see the recent SEIA report in my link below. It looks like we installed approx 5 GW through Q 3 and that we will have 7.2 GW by end of year.

      • GraceAdams830

        Gas/oil firms love geothermal because they can still drill–just have to look for geothermal instead of gas or oil. And our SW has quite a bit of geothermal.

  • JamesWimberley

    A small gotcha! for the eminent and estimable Dr, Hoffman:
    “Cars are on the road for an average of 10 to 12 years in the United States.”
    Not so. That’s the average age of the light vehicle fleet – 11.4 years at present (link). That means that the typical vehicle life must be closer to 20 years.

    The transition will be slow, even if evs take over the new car market completely. Crazy optimists might hope for that by 2020. There will still be gas stations in 2040, getting harder to find and seedier. However, the newer cars do more mileage.

    • sault

      The distribution of vehicle age can be approximated by a bell-curve that has a peak at 11.4 years. Depending on vehicle sales each year, either the “younger” or the “older” tail will be relatively fatter, but not by much. However, vehicles drop out of that distribution continually and are sent to the great junkyard in the sky all the time. Whether a car gets totaled in an accident as soon as it leaves the dealer lot (womp womp), or it makes it all the way to 40 years old and grandpa has to take the car out back and shoot it, vehicles are constantly being taken out of the pool over the entire age distribution.

      That being said, we can make a few deductions given the evidence:

      1. Vehicles leaving the fleet in their first year of life are kind of rare. Lemons are a lot less prevalent nowadays and the aforementioned driving off the dealer lot nightmare scenario is unlikely even with the millions of cars sold every year. The cumulative probability of a vehicle leaving the fleet this early starts off low and is slow to climb.

      2. Large numbers of cars lasting to 40 years are likewise unlikely except for the small number of highly-prized exotics and classic cars people keep in their garages for decades. The cumulative probability of a vehicle leaving the fleet by this time hits 100%

      3. The average age of vehicles is 11.4 years, marking the peak of the bell curve. At this age, just as many vehicles are entering this age cohort as are leaving it right now (as long as the average isn’t changing all that drastically), while more vehicles hitting 11.3 years are entering that cohort than leaving it. Likewise, more vehicles are leaving the 11.5 year-old cohort than entering it. The takeaway is that these differences are caused by vehicles leaving the fleet since you can’t add any vehicles to these age cohorts, you can only take them away (to the junkyard). The slope of the bell curve tells you that the number of vehicles leaving the fleet as each cohort gets older is increasing (as is the cumulative probability that any one vehicle will leave the fleet at a certain age).

      4. Half the vehicles in the fleet are younger than 11.4 years while half are older by definition. And again, since it becomes more likely that vehicles drop out of the fleet as they age, you would expect the bell curve of vehicle ages to drop off ever more steeply as the vehicles get older. I do’t know anything about the standard deviation of vehicle ages or a lot of other parameters, but the expected value of a vehicle’s age before it is retired is unlikely to be as long as 20 years.

      5. We can test this theory by looking for MY1995 vehicles on the roads. Take a sample and log the data. Just from personal experience, I do see some cars from 1995 on the roads, but most of the cars I see in my neck of the woods are 10 years old or younger.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Factor in accidents. I had a friend who took delivery of a brand new car, made two right turns around the block, and had it totaled.

        Extremely rare, I’m sure, but cars five years old or newer do 50% of US driving. That means they are on the road more hours and exposed at a higher rate.

        The first year/early years totalling rate for exotics and performance cars might be surprisingly high.

      • JamesWimberley

        I don’t understand your objection to my inference that the life expectancy of a new car is 20 years or thereabouts, given that the mean age is 11.4 years. To get less, you would need a very peculiar curve, suddenly dropping off at 15 years or so – not a bell but a left-tailed Poisson. The reverse is more likely: the lemons die young, the good cars kept by old ladies and driven cautiously on Sundays last for ever.

        What Mike W says about the distribution of driving miles: this will be a right-tailed Poisson.

      • taster

        Well then there is the ancient Hondas that keep on tickin and refuse to die, my Honda as reached a proud age of 23 and excluding standard maintance has never seen the inside of a shop, even though it has seen three accidents (the thing is indestructible). The bad part is that my extended length expedition gets better gas mileage.

  • Person

    Is this based on nameplate capacity? Or expected energy generation? If the former, it provides a misleading perspective and could lead to the wrong conclusions. One might be inclined to think that 53% of the energy delivered from the 2014 installations will be from wind and solar. Impressive indeed. Maybe it’s time to wind down the subsidies… But, I would guess that the gas plants will have very high utilization (near 100%) and that wind and solar will have low utilization (20-30%). In this case, only 10-15% of the energy delivered from the 2014 installations is from renewable sources. Not as impressive, and maybe more needs to be done to spur adoption of renewables.

    • Person

      Hmmm, just did more digging, gas turbine utilization looks like it averages ~40% ( wind utilization may be around 25%, and solar utilization around 20%. Renewables are contributing much more than I supposed.

      • Bob_Wallace

        A 25% CF for wind is olden times. The industry is moving above 40% these days. Those old “25% CF” wind farms will likely go away over the next 15 years and be replaced with much more efficient turbines/blades/towers.

        Gas turbine CF is low because turbines are basically dispatchable “fill-in” generation. Some turbines run only a few hours a year (think really hot summer afternoons when we’re at risk of brown-outs).

      • The key difference is that for gas, capacity rate can vary a lot, and
        they could run at closer to 100% utilization if they were used for base
        load. You are right in that actual rate is lower, but that is by choice, not due to inherent limitations.

        So I agree in that it is misleading to just report nameplate capacity. And I also agree in that there is danger complacency, if it sounds like problem was already solved, or even being solved. Even if the other bright spot is that NG is replacing coal — that in itself will also reduce CO2 emissions, even if it is more of a stop-gap solution.

        The real focus should be in tracking actual CO2 emissions, and in that sense, even short-term conversions of base load capacity from coal to natural gas is a positive thing. As long as it augments longer term conversion to renewables. Thing is, there are limits to speed at which renewable production can be ramped up, and not just due to grid limitations, but everything from legislation, zoning to actual production rates of solar panels, budget for subsidies that are paid (related to legislation, but also fiscal situation).

        • Neptune

          There is no limit for demand reduction. That’s the fastest option.

          • TatuSaloranta

            Um, you must be joking. If demand reduction was fast in practice, it would be done already. I wish it was that easy, but wishful thinking won’t help here.

          • Neptune

            People could change behaviour and reduce demand in a second, but they don’t want to change behaviour. That’s the problem of demand reduction.

          • If pigs were to fly, that’d also be the fastest way for them to move from A to B. This has not happen and I have high confidence of this also not happening in future.

            I did not claim people could not change their behavior. But that is of little help in understanding whether they would or will; and to what degree.

            Further, it is downright delusional to think that on global scale demand reduction would be enough. For majority of humankind, existing level of energy usage is exactly what keeps them poor and sick. For the sizable minority in western world, usage is higher than necessary, but not by margin that would make problem disappear even if it was tackled as the number one practical problem.
            Even with reduction in energy intensity in countries like Denmark happening elsewhere, even THEN co2 emissions are unsustainable. Modern, good life still depends on significant energy usage. And there is nothing wrong with that, in and of itself.

            But magnitude of co2 emissions, for past half a century, is the problem, due to production mechanisms chosen.

            Which is why better methods of producing energy need to be used and introduced. And not just one or two options, but a combination of best things available at given time and place.

          • Neptune

            You don’t know the numbers. 20% of people are responsible for 80% of emissions. That’s a fact. These 20% of people are high and middle class people in developed countries. If these people reduce their demand, then the problem is orders of magnitude easier to deal with.

            It’s true that eventually we will have to produce energy only with zero carbon sources. But until we get there demand reduction is the fastest and most efficient option for reducing emissions.

          • Yes. 20% _currently_, because of uneven distribution of wealth etc globally. Much of that 80% is working very hard to get to use enough energy to provide for health, food, and basic modern standards of living.

            I am all for reducing usage by populations of industrial countries; including working on that for myself and my family. I think this is important and valuable, and will help.

            But the facts are quite clear on how much is feasible and on what schedule. I can buy the claim that you could halve direct energy usage by US households (for example); but industry is generally already more efficient than individuals; transportation of goods as well. And even if total western energy usage was cut by 50%, and if developed nations were to keep levels at current levels, EVEN THEN co2 emissions would be at too high a level with current production mix.

            And this is why all options should be considered, and which is why I think false meme of “if everyone just cut down wasteful usage” is exactly as believable as right-wing myth of “wasteful government spending is why we pay way too much taxes”. It will not help but hurt actual real progress towards sustainable resource usage.

            This is why I disagree with the original statement. There is no single solution to the problem. It’s a puzzle, not a picture.

          • GraceAdams830

            To reduce demand for energy–tax energy regardless of carbon footprint. I really believe in the power of prohibitive tariff effect of taxes.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Reporting nameplate, while problematic, does give us a feel for where capital is being invested.

          A year or so after the fact we can look back to see how much production changed.

          • TatuSaloranta

            I agree in that reporting nameplate production has its place. Just that when comparing different energy sources, it is inherently problematic. Comparing, say, geo-thermal to solar PV by nameplate only gives a skewed view.

    • JamesWimberley

      Your guess that gas plants have near 100% utilization would be wrong. They are built as peak loppers. The average capacity factor for natural gas plants in the USA in 2013 was 46.5%. (Source EIA. link). The utilization of new, marginal gas plants will be lower. The EIA’s comparable number for wind was 32.3%, for utility solar 23.3%.
      The correction needed is less than you think.

    • This is our capacity report. The electricity generation report was published at almost the same time:

  • Vensonata

    I think we need to harness more clever negative advertising on fossil fuels. There should be a fictional company trying to sell coal powered computers, diesel powered toothbrushes, gasoline cellphones, natural gas powered coffee grinders, etc. make people realize its over, its over, its over.

    • JamesWimberley
    • Will E

      and dying people of air pollution
      and a steam locomotive to support a high speed electric train.
      and tear sand mining pics. there is an artistic abundance of deadly fossil pics

    • taster

      Your failed attempt at humor amuses me, because all of the devices/items you listed include petroleum byproducts. Guess what plastic is made of… Guess what chances are your shirt that you are wearing has petroleum byproducts as well, it is not over, not even close.

      • Bob_Wallace

        There’s a huge difference between using petroleum as an industrial feedstock and using fossil fuels to produce electricity and power vehicles.

        Do you need that explained?

  • Marion Meads

    Wind and Solar about 7.3% of Total versus the dinos which is 73% of Total, still 10 times more. It means great opportunity coming! I think there would be fierce lobbying resistance from the gas group when it begins to encroach their territories. For now, the coals are displaced while nat gas are still being installed.

    WHY are we still installing gas when Wind and solar PV is now cheaper?

    • Fact

      Isn’t that the only way to ‘retrofit’ a coal plant and keep it somewhat in demand?

      • Bob_Wallace

        Coal plants can be and have been converted to run on natural gas or biofuel – I think usually wood pellets.

        Seems like there was a plan to install thermal solar at one coal plant and use solar heat when available in place of coal. I don’t know if that idea ever went anywhere.

        • Marion Meads

          I’ve seen numerous patents about such hybrid designs, and it includes biomass feed stock too.

        • Will E

          forget thermal.
          PV is so cheap and reliable.
          Wind is so cheap and reliable.
          stop the burning
          money cremation

          • JB

            Solar thermal for water heating is a good ROI.

      • Matt

        That is what you see in Dayton Ohio, on the river where there was a old coal plant is now a set of gas peakers. Well assume they are for peak, don’t know what percent of day they run. But the took down the old coal plant, stacks, ash catchers; and but like 6 gas turbine, each with its own little building and a stack.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Why? I suspect because utilities first job is to keep the lights on. That means, to them, they need enough dispatchable capacity to meet demand if wind and solar aren’t present.

      That need for NG capacity will likely be eroded by cheap storage. Looking forward to see EOS’s and Ambri’s impact on the grid world.

    • ADW

      To be picky, the use of the term ‘dino-fuel’ is wrong. Hydrocarbon fuels come from plant matter and bacteria that was laid down millions of year prior to dinosaurs. I expect you use the term to be cute or funny, but Renewable Energy struggles to overcome hundreds of years of status quo, it helps if we avoid looking un-educated.

      • Marion Meads

        okay, how about fossil fuels, the fact that they were in the ground for millions of years. I love the term dino as it is shorter, cuter, but a grim reminder that soon these companies are going to be extinct, with only a few remnants left.

        • sault

          Titan can hold on to its hydrocarbons (called a “reducing atmosphere”) because it has no free oxygen in its air. While we’ve found a few sources of “abiogenic hydrocarbons” on Earth, they are found in tiny, non-economic amounts compared to “biogenic” hydrocarbons we drill for all the time.

          • Marion Meads

            we literally haven’t even scratched the surface of the earth to conclude that the planet’s natural gasses are not abiogenic in origin. like for example, there is more than an ocean volume equivalent of water trapped in the earth’s rocks.

          • sault

            Yeah…no. Abiogenic fossil fuels have been thoroughly discredited for years: “The abiotic hypothesis remains just that, an hypothesis which has failed in prediction and so cannot be elevated to a theory. It is completely ignored by the oil industry worldwide, and even within Russia. And that is the final testament to its failure.”


    • Shiggity

      Natural gas isn’t going to be this cheap forever and once the price goes up those plants will probably lie dormant as backups.

      • Sam Broderick

        Natural gas does not seem to provide much more than a quick fix, yes.

        I’m quite interested in fusion and what the ITER project will be up to. Why not use the most abundant element in the universe? Hydrogen. Although I do have doubts about the possible successes of fusion, I think it is most certainly worth taking an in depth look into.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Fusion is not an answer. We do not know if 1) fusion will ever be achieved outside of brief flashes in labs and 2) if there is anyway to make affordable electricity using fusion.

          Remember, fusion is only a heat source. The other steam technologies we have for producing electricity with steam are either not at all competitive (coal, oil and fission) or are only marginally competitive (geothermal and solar thermal).

          With wind and solar becoming so inexpensive it’s becoming tough for other players to stay in the game.

          Until fusion is actually proven why don’t you expend your interest in it on another site. It isn’t appropriate on a site that deals with usable technologies.

    • RobMF

      So some years ago, back in the early 2000s, the total fraction of wind and solar was 0.2 percent. Just to give an idea how strong the renewables growth has become. The next big threshold is 10 percent, which we probably hit or exceed by 2017.

Back to Top ↑