United States Connected 487 MW Of Large Solar & Wind To The Grid In August

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Originally published on Solar Love

The United States connected a total 487 MW of wind and utility-scale solar capacity to the national grid in August, according to new figures released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its latest Energy Infrastructure Update for August (PDF) this past week, in which the governmental agency revealed that of all new electricity generation in-service for the month of August, wind had installed 2 projects totalling 249 MW, while utility-scale solar had installed 10 projects totalling 238 MW.

In fact, wind and solar were the only new generation capacity added in August, and, alongside natural gas, one of the three major drivers of new electricity generation capacity for the whole of 2015 to date. For the period January to August 2015, natural gas has seen 29 new projects totalling 2,524 MW of installed capacity, wind with 22 projects totalling 2,368 MW, and solar with 123 projects totalling 1,034 MW.

solar wind power additions capacity us electricity capacity FERC-3

Worth noting, however, is that only wind installed more capacity over the first eight months of the year in 2015 than it did in 2014, with both natural gas and utility-scale solar falling well behind their 2014 installation figures.


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9 thoughts on “United States Connected 487 MW Of Large Solar & Wind To The Grid In August

  • Is that first chart supposed to be 2012?

  • The single coal plant addition in the 2015 table is most peculiar. A teeny 3 MW coal generator? To put that into perspective, 3 MW is the typical size of a backup generator for an office tower or data center and they’re small enough to pack into a standard shipping container.

    These 3 MW gensets, however, are powered by natural gas, biogas, diesel or coal gas, not coal. Is this little 3 MW “coal” generator actually “coal gas” fired?

    • If an existing power station undergoes a significant uprate, the increase is net net generating capacity is usually also recorded in new capacity additions data. For example, replacing an old steam generator with a more efficient new unit significantly increases nameplate capacity.

      Such uprates explain all of the increase in nuclear generation capacity in recent years too, btw.

  • The 100 MW average size of the gas plants commissioned in 2015 indicates that they are all or nearly all gas peakers, not baseload combined-cycle plants. Peakers have very low capacity factors, under 10% according to the EIA. Since wind and solar enjoy despatch priority, their capacity factor is the same as their availability, IIRC 20% for solar and 40% for wind.

    • That being the case I would guess that a number of planners did not see affordable storage coming.

      Utilities could be looking at a lot of stranded assets as it becomes cheaper to install storage than to fuel peakers.

      • But is affordable storage actually coming soon (enough)? Something that can smooth out wind pattern variations over days or weeks, not just smaller intra-day fluctuations?

        I know there are many exciting plans, projects and hopes. But right at the moment, batteries are still rather expensive and only coming affordable-enough for places like Hawaii. And cheaper options (pumped hydro, molten salt with CSP) are limited by other factors.
        So perhaps planners can not quite yet rely on future availability of affordable storage.
        And despite all positive attention Tesla gets, their batteries need to go through couple of cycles of halve-the-price before they are truly affordable.

        • No, not days or weeks. Minutes to hours. And that’s been a peaker role.

          Lots of utilities are now installing batteries in order to cut back on peaker use.

          When it comes to the day/week stuff combined cycle natural gas plants make a lot more sense than peaker turbines. By using the waste heat that comes from gas turbines to drive a steam turbine a lot more electricity can be generated from a given amount of fuel.

          Pump-up hydro is not actually limited. We just don’t have enough need for long term storage. A few PuHS facilities are now being built, one just outside of Chicago.

          • Right, I am not worried about minutes to hours part, that can (and will) be taken care of.

            For US, pumped hydro will hopefully be built in scale. In Europe it should play a role, but also requires continuation of HDVC grid connector projects, which fortunately seem to be advancing steadily thanks to offshore wind power projects.

            Perhaps slightly expanded waste/bio-gas/wood pellets can help on peaker side as well. Currently I don’t think they are used in that role (in some countries wood pellets are used for greenwashing, and for that it makes sense to just “burn whenever you can”, related to fuel shipment), but it should be possible use them in more variable manner. Starting/stopping gas burners is still faster, but it should at least be possible to match what modern coal plants can do?

          • I seem to remember that coal plants run on biomass produce about 80% as much electricity as when burning coal. But those coal plants are already built.

            We could make some of the coal plants ‘part-timers’ and fire them up during the times when supply is highly stressed.

            I watched daily data for a Canadian coal plant a couple years back. It was being fired up in the morning and hitting full output after four (? – not sure of the hours) later. It was then supplying afternoon and evening peak, then being shut back down for several hours.

            I would think we could do the same thing with biomass (although they may have been keeping the turbine warm rather than letting it cool completely).

            The question might be which is easiest to produce, biogas for CC gas plants or biomass for converted coal plants.

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