Published on February 15th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan27
Renewables = 69% of New US Electricity Capacity in 2015
February 15th, 2016 by Zachary Shahan
Using data from FERC and rooftop solar power estimates of my own*, it seems that 69% of newly installed US electricity generation capacity was from renewable energy power plants, with 67% from solar and wind power. In the month of December, 100% of new power capacity came from wind and solar projects.
Meanwhile, total installed coal power capacity declined from 326.6 GW at the end of 2014 to 305.05 GW at the end of 2015. In other words, net, 21.55 GW of coal power capacity were taken offline in 2015.
Unfortunately, natural gas (which may be much cleaner than coal, but that is up for debate) power capacity grew from 492.97 GW to 500.71 GW. In other words, it saw nearly 8 GW of additional capacity (net).
To compare to renewables on the whole, that segment grew by 23.5 GW, from 200.94 to 224.43 GW. Solar and wind alone grew by about 21 GW, from 81.45 GW to 102.58 GW, based on my estimates. That’s approximately the change in coal capacity.
The top sources of new power capacity in 2015 (in MWac) were as follows:
- Wind Power (40.9%) — 7977
- Natural Gas (30.5%) — 5942
- Solar Power (25.9%) — 5047
Those three sources accounted for over 97% of new power capacity.
“If it weren’t already obvious, the latest FERC data confirm that the era of coal, oil, and nuclear power is rapidly drawing to a close,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The future — in fact, the present — has become renewable energy!”
At the end of the day (at the end of the year), renewables still only accounted for 19% of total US electricity generation capacity, and solar + wind 8.7%. So, we have a long way to go. Nonetheless, 69% of new capacity from renewables in the year isn’t really a letdown, even if it does seem like 100% of new capacity should have come from renewables….
Here’s my December and full-year table on capacity installations and total installed capacity across the US:
*Based on SEIA/GTM research projections for 2015 and historical data from NREL.
Last month’s electricity capacity report can be viewed here: “Renewables = 99% of New US Power Capacity in November.”