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Published on May 31st, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


Renewables = 99% Of New Electricity Capacity In Q1 2016 In USA (CleanTechnica Electricity Reports)

May 31st, 2016 by  


For various reasons, I’ve decided to start doing our US electricity generation capacity reports and US electricity generation reports once a quarter (instead of monthly), and I’ve also decided to start combining them. So, below is our update on US electricity generation capacity in Q1 2016 (with a new feature — comparing the quarter to the same quarter last year) and our update on US electricity generation in Q1 2016.

As usual, I’ve included interactive charts. Click the subheadings within the charts to see Q1 2015 data and, just in the first one, total installed capacity by electricity source. I find it fun to toggle back and forth between 2016 & 2015 data and get a visualization of how things changed.

US Electricity Generation Capacity Report Q1 2016

US Electricity Generation Capacity Q1 2016

Here’s a static image of Q1 2016 capacity additions, if you want to share with friends.

As you can see in the charts above and table below, renewable energy absolutely dominated to electricity generation capacity in the USA in Q1 2016, even more so than it did in Q1 2015.

Accounting for a whopping 99.2% of new electricity generation capacity, renewables — led by solar power and wind power, which accounted for 96.4% of new capacity — look prime to have a record-breaking year.

Renewables had a great period of growth in the same quarter of 2015, but natural gas also saw a big boom (458 MW of new capacity) in Q1 2015, compared to just 18 MW of new capacity in Q1 2016. As a result, natural gas dropped from 16.8% of new capacity in Q1 2015 to just 0.8% of new capacity in Q1 2016. Frankly, new natural gas power plants are out of style (and have a tough time competing with low-cost wind and low-cost solar).

US Renewable Energy Capacity - Q1 2016



Total installed capacity across the United States is still heavily in favor of dirty fossil fuel power plants and nuclear power plants. Natural gas is #1 with 42% of the country’s electricity generation capacity, coal is #2 with 25.3%, and nuclear is #3 with 9%. And that leads us into the electricity generation report….

US Electricity Generation Report Q1 2016

US Electricity Generation Q1 2016

Here’s a static image of Q1 2016 US electricity generation, if you want to share with friends.

The depressing part of these reports is that, even when renewables = 100% of new capacity, total existing capacity and, thus, generation is still dominated by fossil fuels. Q1 2016, of course, follows the same rule. But movement can be identified:

  • Renewables as a whole grew from 14% of US electricity in Q1 2015 to 17% in Q1 2016.
  • Solar + wind grew from 5% to 7%.
  • Solar finally reached 1% of US electricity generation, considered to be an important tipping point.
  • Coal dropped from 36% t0 29%.

Though, natural gas did grow from 29% to 32%, by 19,527 gigawatt-hours (GWh).

Looking at more of the absolute changes:

  • Generation from renewables grew by 21,714 GWh in Q1 2016 vs Q1 2015.
  • Solar + wind grew by 17,343 GWh.
  • Wind alone grew by 14,925 GWh.
  • Coal dropped by 89,224 GWh.
  • Petroleum liquids dropped by 4,814 GWh.
  • Overall electricity generation dropped by 50,395 GWh, perhaps the most important change of all.

Positive trends. Check out the charts above and the table below and let me know if any other highlights stand out to you.

US Renewable Electricity Generation - Q1 2016


Renewables = 69% of New US Electricity Capacity in 2015

US Wind & Solar Electricity Generation Grew By 20,659 MWh In 2015 (2015 US Electricity Generation Report)

Did CleanTechnica Push The US EIA To Include Distributed Solar Generation In Monthly Reports?

Dubai Gets Record-Low Bid Of 2.99¢/kWh For 800 MW Solar PV Project

Solar & Wind Power Prices Often Lower Than Fossil Fuel Power Prices

Charts by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica; other images by vectoropenstock.com

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Brian

    Several large solar power plants under construction in the United States have in the past few months promised to do something that none has done before: offer prices equal to or lesser than that of a natural gas-fired power plant, even as gas is abundant and cheap. It’s only a matter of time, when wind and solar which continue to drop dramatically in price will be cheaper than natural gas.


    • Bob_Wallace

      Brian, how old are you?

      • Brian

        Old enough to know that Germany gets 30% from renewables, and they didn’t need to use NG as a bridge fuel to close dirty coal plants. Why can’t we replicate Germany’s success, and ramp up wind and solar power, to use to replace dirty coal, without NG? The trend is clear: The efficiency of wind turbines and solar panels is going up, and their prices are going down. NG will not be able to compete. Grid-scale storage is coming down in price (from the Tesla Energy batteries to grid-scale liquid metal batteries). Intermittency can also be overcome with interconnected smart grids that can shift energy from regions
        where there’s a surplus of sun and wind to those where there’s a deficit, until battery storage and pumped hydro are ramped up to provide back up power. Wind and solar are free, once they are installed unlike NG, which needs a constant supply of gas. This makes wind and solar much more attractive to utility companies. It’s very hard for a grid operator or power company to say no to free
        power once it has access to it, so that clean energy takes precedence on
        more expensive power from coal and natural gas plants. Over 100 GW of solar in one place is susceptible to a single cloudy day; 100
        GW of solar distributed across millions of rooftops actually receives
        very mathematically consistent sunlight when taken as a whole.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Germany has the ability to pull electricity from other countries in Europe. And many of Germany’s coal plants can load follow.

          We, in the US, cannot simply shut off coal plants and replace them with wind and solar. We would have no ability to keep the grid running during times of low wind/solar input.

          • Brian

            We can’t now, but if we scaled up wind and solar, we could. Clearly you don’t understand how renewable energy works. if the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine in one area, it blows or shines in another. A
            2005 study by the International Energy Agency found that wind power,
            spread across a wide enough area, connected to the regional electric
            grids, can provide stable, predictable amounts of electricity. Of course pumped hydro and battery storage will need further development, but this notion that NG can only fill the gap left by closing dirty coal plants, is bogus. To fill the gap, left from closing dirty coal plants, we need to dramatically scale up wind and solar, as well as rooftop solar, where we can get 40% of our electricity. Australia is already doing this.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Brian, you simply are out of your depth. You really don’t understand the realities of grid operation.

          • Brian

            The reality is that NG is a dirty fossil fuel, not any cleaner than coal, when the fracking and methane emissions are factored in, caused a 300% increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma, and is poisoning our water supply. Cleantechnica has many post explaining the insanity of continuing the NG fracking process. We can get 7 times our electricity needs from wind alone, so the logical step would be to scale up wind and solar until we develop battery storage and pumped hydro. Fortunately Europe, Australia, China, and many other countries, are rejecting NG, in favor of renewables, and they have intelligent leaders, unlike you.

          • jeffhre

            Brian, talk about interconnections and regional transmission of renewable energy here – leaders are fickle and can change their minds at any time!

      • Brian

        Here’s your math. We can get 40% from rooftop solar alone. Better to have a decentralized grid drawing power from millions of rooftops, than from a centralized NG plant that needs a constant supply of fracked NG to keep it running. Homeowners and businesses save money, our environment benefits, and we can close all our dirty coal plants without using NG. Australia is closing many of it’s dirty coal plants with rooftop solar. A mix of solar thermal, solar PV power plants, both onshore and offshore wind farms, biogas plants, and rooftop solar, could negate the immediate need for storage, and allow us to phase out NG plants now. Of course we’ll need pumped hydro and batteries to store power in the future, but my point is that if we ramp up all forms of wind and solar power now, we can begin to phaze out NG, while closing dirty coal plants, even though our storage isn’t yet fully developed.

        • Bob_Wallace

          There’s no math there, Brian. You’re just continuing to wave your arms around while displaying no apparent knowledge as to how grids operate.

          • Brian

            Can you count? If we can get 40% of our electricity, from rooftop solar alone, and another 60% from on shore and offshore wind farms, as well as large and small decentralized solar power plants spread out around the country, we can replace dirty coal plants without NG. NG is not needed, if we dramatically scale up wind and solar like China is doing. Also energy efficiency could lower our demand for electricity significantly. Australia is closing it’s dirty coal plants without an increase in NG. Centralized NG plants pollute our environment, and cannot compete with rooftop solar, decentralized solar power plants and wind farms. In addition, we must keep drilling for the NG which makes it much more expensive, and poisons our water. We can eliminate both dirty coal and NG, by dramatically scaling up wind and solar. Intermittency is overcome by scale. If the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow in one area, it blows somewhere else. The United States has some of the best wind resources in the world, with
            enough potential energy to produce nearly 10 times the country’s existing power needs. Add solar power, and NG is not needed.

          • Bob_Wallace

            More bullshit from you.

            Do you not have the ability to think deeper than 1″ below the surface?

          • jeffhre

            Grids don’t work that way, gotta break it down by grid operator at least, show how to get past the politics of places like Ohio and Florida and the competitive costs in places like Missouri.

      • I’m confused. Responding to the wrong comment?

        • Bob_Wallace

          It’s out of place. I replied to a different comment via email.

  • chrisbrandow

    two questions about what seem like big deals:
    1. first time that coal is not #1 overall for generation?
    2. all solar has almost surpassed wood products, so presumably will do so in Q2. Will that also be a first, or did it surpass last summer?

    • 1) Yeah, I believe I reported on that at some point last year, but haven’t checked when the first quarter this happened was. Might have been Q1 2016….
      2) Not sure. Will check on that next quarter.

    • Bob_Wallace

      July 2015. Coal 34.7%, natural gas 35.1%.

      Most recent month for which we have data is March 2015. Coal 23.8%, natural gas 34.1%.

      Notice that coal has dropped a lot (down a 10.8% market share) and natural gas has not taken up that share. NG is down 1%.

  • Michael Jameson

    “Overall electricity generation dropped by 50,395 GWh” – Great news here but what is the reason for this? This year was significantly warmer than last year’s record cold. Are we possibly under reporting Rooftop Solar PV and instead it is showing up as a decrease in overall demand? Are all the changes in light bulbs and other appliances having an affect?

    • Adrian

      Remember these are just for the 1st quarter. Early 2015 was the “Polar Vortex” which likely caused higher heating demand across much of the country compared to early 2016.

      • And Q1 2016 was by far the warmest Q1 in history (globally).

    • It’s hard to know, which is why I couldn’t say much on it, but part of it is probably a cold Q1 2015 and very warm Q1 2016. As well as efficiency improvements.

    • nitpicker357

      “effect” not “affect”

      • jeffhre

        “- why the huge drop?”

        Back then, they was usin’ less a dat, round there – lotsa reasons. Change a’ seasons, whether reasons and decoupling even.

  • Brian

    It’s not necessary at this stage of our energy transformation to replace dirty coal plants with natural gas plants. The fracking process is to much of a threat to our water supply as our the earthquakes to our enviroment. Demand for electricity is low, and we can build many decentralized solar power plants and wind farms to directly replace dirty coal plants. In addition, rooftop solar, which could provide 40% of our electrical needs alone, should be dramatically scaled up, along with offshore wind, floating turbines, and new higher turbines that can tap into wind in the South Eastern states for the first time. We can solve the intermittency issues by scaling up wind and solar dramatically like China is doing. Germany gets a third of their electricity from renewables, and they didn’t replace their dirty coal plants with NG plants that threaten their water supply. France and New York state banned fracking. It should also be banned nationwide.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Again, Brian, you ignore the damage coal does to our water supply. And our health.

      The fracking earthquakes are too small to matter.

      • Brian

        Yes, dirty coal is bad for our environment, as is NG. My only point is that since we will have to phase out NG in the future, wouldn’t it be cheaper to go straight to wind and solar as a replacement for NG? It will cost a lot to phase out NG, and close the fracking operations. Dangerous chemicals could also leach out and contaminate areas. Isn’t it cheaper to invest in something that we’ll need long term, than invest in NG, which will be phased out soon? We could get 40% from rooftop solar alone. By scaling up rooftop solar along with both onshore and offshore wind, large and small decentralized solar power plants, we could solve the intermittency issue, as we develop our battery storage.

        • Bob_Wallace

          ” wouldn’t it be cheaper to go straight to wind and solar as a replacement for NG?”


          Storage is just becoming inexpensive enough to time-shift wind or solar a few hours (single day cycling). It’s not even there yet. There’s no way we could afford to build storage for 2, 3, …, 8 day storage. The best long term storage option is pump-up hydro (possibly flow batteries). PuHS costs about $0.10/kWh. Storing energy for 2,…8 days would cost well over 10 cents once we add in the cost of electricity plus the ~15% loss.

          NG can fill in the 2…8 day stuff for well under $0.10/kWh.

          “Dangerous chemicals could also leach out and contaminate areas.”

          Yes, could. But coal is already contaminating vast quantities of water.
          ” Isn’t it cheaper to invest in something that we’ll need long term, than invest in NG, which will be phased out soon?”

          We’ll need NG as deep backup for many years. It will take us several years to install enough wind and solar (along with NG) to allow us to close down coal. And then many more years to install enough storage and overbuild wind/solar to cover the few times a year when wind/solar input drops low.
          One does not wave a magic wand and make “40% solar” appear. We’re installing solar at about 0.5% a year in the US. We’d have
          to quadruple installation to get to 2% per year. And then at 2% a year it would take 20 years to reach 40%.

          Long range (30 years from now?) we may reach the point at which gas plants are used for less than 3% of our electricity supply. At that point we may be able to run them with biogas (landfill, municipal sewage gas).

          • but we don’t need more flexibility on the grid until renewables = ~30%.

            but yeah, need to break it down by region, as someone suggested we try to do 😉 😀

          • Bob_Wallace

            True, that. Wonder who suggested we break it down by region? ;o)

            I don’t know the year of the coal map below but comparing it to where new gas plants are being built in 2016 suggests that some areas still need more gas capacity in order to shut down coal.

            I’ll toss in the plants closing in 2016 as well. Mostly coal.


          • the head of German grid operator 50Hertz very strongly argued that nothing has to be done up to ~30% renewables. but the situation may be a bit different in parts of the US, and there are parts of the US where wind + solar are in that realm.

            of course, it also depends on the experts you ask. 😀 Mark Z Jacobson has indicated there isn’t a need for natural gas and isn’t much need for battery storage.

            anyhow, i’m excited to jump into that idea once i can block out the time.

          • Bob_Wallace

            IIRC 30% was a ‘years ago’ number for the Eastern grid. The western grid was more like 35% or 40%.

            After those numbers were generated grids moved from selling/buying power in one hour blocks to 15 minute blocks which raised the number. I understand that some are now selling/buying in 5 minute blocks.

            Also, these numbers preceeded the massive buildout of NG plants that we’ve seen. Swapping coal for NG means that wind and solar penetration can go much higher.

            It’s hard to guess how high we could take wind/solar penetration without storage. Large numbers of EVs charging as dispatchable loads could really increase the level. And transmission over wide areas could greatly smooth out supply issues.

          • 30% vs 40% is to some degree estimating anyway, but the 50Hertz guy clearly stated 30% with regard to the German grid. And yeah, that grid has very little natural gas.

            I’d dig into Jacobson’s state-by-state reports to try to see how he envisions going 100% renewable with little battery storage.

    • jdeely

      No we can’t. Not yet.

      Nat Gas replaces coal now… Instead of waiting for solar to be cheap enough for place like Pennsylvania,Kentucky,Ohio etc… we need to replace coal with Nat Gas now.

      Remember – CO2 is cumulative and last a long time. Replace coal – then we can worry about Nat Gas.

      • Brian

        Solar and wind have already come down dramatically in price. Since we will have to phaze out NG anyway, wouldn’t it be cheaper to just close down all our dirty coal plants, and replace them directly with wind and solar power? Investing in solar and wind will bring the price down quicker, and we’ll save more money because we won’t have to shut down as many fracking operations that may leach dangerous chemicals into our environment. It cost a lot of money to drill for natural gas, and then discontinue, as we phase it out. Doesn’t it make more sense to invest in wind and solar as a replacement for dirty coal, since they will be around in the future, unlike NG, which will soon be phased out? Also we can get 40% from rooftop solar alone. Wouldn’t it be better to spend our money on wind and solar instead of NG?

        • Bob_Wallace

          You show us the math, Brian.

          Price out a combination of wind, solar and storage that would replace coal. Make sure you put in enough storage to cover multiple day periods of low wind and solar input.

        • jdeely

          Besides Bob’s comments on storage below you might also want to check out wind resource map – http://www.ferc.gov/CalendarFiles/20090302091628-NREL%20us_windmap.pdf
          and solar insolation map – http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/eere_pv/national_photovoltaic_2012-01.jpg
          So no – right now it is not better in a lot of states to spend money on wind and solar vs. NG even with credits that have recently been passed. By 2030, that may have changed.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You linked to a wind map using 50 meter hub heights. That’s 1980s wind. We moved to 80 meters some time ago and are now looking at 140 meter and higher heights.

            At 140 there’s good wind resources in most parts of the country. If the maps display in proper order they will be 50, 80, 100 and 140 meter hub heights.

            The 140 map is a bit different from the others. It shows areas where wind capacity factors would be higher than 35%.

            The 100 meter map shows offshore wind, which is likely to be a big input for the NE states. Offshore should drop a lot in price and be as good or better than importing energy from the Midwest.

            Solar is paying for itself easily in states like New Jersey and New York. It’s time to install both wind and solar throughout the country. Just pick the best mix for a particular area.

            (edited to fix a misstatement)


          • jdeely

            Thanks for pointing out the issue with my wind map selection. Also, I don’t mean to imply that we should not be installing wind and solar anywhere it makes sense.

            My point is that we need to do both. Go ahead and install wind and solar but at the same time add big chunks of Natural Gas to help replace the huge amounts of existing coal.

            One example of this is PA(there are others) – where it probably makes sense to add some more wind and it would be great if we could get solar started.

            PA used coal to produce 110K GWh of electricity in 2010. That was cut to 65K last year primarily through the increased usage of Nat Gas. Huge drop in CO2 emissions. These are CO2 emissions that do not go into atmosphere for here on out. Cumulative.

            Wind and solar in PA are less than 4K GWh combined. If we increase this by 5x in the next ten years we can get to 20K GWh. That would be nice. But let’s also add more Nat Gas to eliminate the remaining coal(45GWh) in the meantime.


          • Bob_Wallace

            I’d say reluctantly add NG capacity. And crack down on methane leaks.
            If we control methane leaks then we could get a quick reduction in GHG emissions. And have a more flexible grid, one capable of shutting off fossil fuel use when solar and wind come to work.

            We just can’t do that with coal. It’s too inflexible. (And coal-related methane leaks are significant. Something rarely discussed.)

          • jdeely

            Sort of agree.
            Like you and Zachary mention in other comments – the answer has to be regionally based.
            In CA, I would be very reluctant to add more Nat Gas. Nat Gas usage has peaked in CA and will be headed downwards from here on out. Also, no coal to replace in CA. Same goes for NV.
            In TX, I would be somewhat reluctant to add NG before first considering Wind and/or Solar. Still a big chunk of coal to replace in TX, so getting accelerated CO2 reduction maybe a good tradeoff for adding more Nat Gas plants here. Same goes for OK.
            However, in states like PA,OH,KY,WV,VA,IN,MO etc.. .I am not reluctant at all to add NG. Huge amounts of coal left and extremely small bases of renewables.
            By all means get methane leaks down close to zero. Not hard.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Right, California should soon be coal free. Other regions may need more NG capacity in order to shut down their coal plants.

            One would have to look carefully at Texas (and other places). If wind and solar did not cooperate for several days in a row would Texas (wherever) have the ability to keep the lights on with existing gas plants, hydro and storage?

          • jeffhre

            I’m not sure that is true for California. Politicians have been promising to end the use of coal, from just beyond the state’s borders, like the administration has been promising to close Gitmo.

            Out of sight – it’s not really my problem?

          • jeffhre

            “And crack down on methane leaks.

            If we control methane leaks then we could get a quick reduction in GHG emissions.”

            LOL! That won’t happen at least until there is a complete Supreme Court. And probably not until the US Congress has an entirely different composition.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Think you’ve got that backwards. On issues like this the Supreme Court tends to lock up 4:4. Any challenge to the EPA regs won’t be upheld.

            Yesterday the Court refused to take up a case trying to stop the EPA from regulating toxic emissions from coal plants.

            The EPA methane regulation challenge will be heard by the DC Circuit Court in September, which is an expedited hearing.
            The DC Court is likely to uphold the regs and it looks like even the conservative Chief Justice is willing to control emissions based on the lack of action on coal regs.

            Congress can do nothing about the EPA regs. If they pass legislation blocking them then Obama will veto. And the Republicans do not have the votes to override his veto.

          • jeffhre

            IMO it won’t happen during the Obama admin. or with the SC at 4/4. Later?

          • Bob_Wallace

            DC District hears the case in September. Sounds like they’re fast tracking their decision. It could to the Supreme Court soon after and might be settled before PBO’s term is over.

            Our job is to see that the next president doesn’t stop the EPA from following through.

            If the regs go into effect during the next 12 months that’s a huge win for the environment. It’s very unlikely they’d be dialed back once implemented. Building leak tight NG operations would just be something the industry would do.

            The cost estimates find that this will cost the industry almost nothing. The cost of stopping leaks will be offset by the gas saved which can then be sold.

          • Brian

            I think in many states it is a cheaper alternative to invest in wind and solar instead of NG. The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.


  • Brian

    Trump would be a disaster. He already stated he doesn’t believe Global Warming is anthropogenic, supports the horrible Keystone pipeline, would undermine agreements made in Paris, block clean renewable energy, and support our continued use of dirty fossil fuels. It’s clear we don’t need to build anymore natural gas plants and expand environmentally destructive fracking. Our goal should be to dramatically scale up wind and solar power like China is doing. We can get 40% from rooftop solar alone, and that is also an area that should be dramatically scaled up as prices for solar are plummeting. Offshore wind should also be dramatically scaled up.

  • Donald Zenga

    Fantastic charts and a impressive growth of Renewable energy.
    If anyone is interested in more detailed info of growth of renewable energy, please download the document from ren21.net. They provide annual report on the status of Renewable energy.

  • neroden

    Oh dear — the solar growth rate has slowed to a mere 35% year over year!

    At this slowed rate, it will take 16 years before solar produces all the electricity in the US! What will we ever do! 🙂

    Seriously, there’s some evidence that wind growth has stopped being exponential and has gone linear. If it stayed exponential it would take 10 years to produce all the electricity in the US. But if it’s gone linear, it’ll only produce about 20% of the electricity in the US in 10 years. Anyway, solar is definitely going to be on the exponential curve for years to come.

    So in 2026, my projection says, 20% for wind, 7% for hydro, 20% for solar (if it stays at the low 35% growth rate). Probably a bit higher thanks to efficiency causing a drop in total electrical demand, though that will be partly offset by the adoption of electric cars.

    Solar adoption could *accelerate*, however. It’s reaching critical price points which act as tipping points for demand.

    • Epicurus

      What’s the other 53%?

      Only 20% each for solar and wind in 2026? A bit of a bummer.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Don’t count wind out. We’re hearing about 50%+ capacity factors and at least one PPA for 1.5c/kWh. Add in the realization that higher hub heights open up a lot of the country where we assumed there weren’t good wind resources (map below).

      If wind is now dropping below 3c/kWh without subsidies and below 2c/kWh with subsidies then that’s going to be some very interesting developments for grids that are paying for fuel.

      Coal operating costs (fuel, etc.) averaged 3.23 cents per kilowatt hour in 2011.


    • Donald Zenga

      Please note that USA has a saturated power market and with 1% population growth, the growth in installed capacity should also be 1%.
      But if Wind makes 10% growth, that’s very impressive and I believe its slowly eating into the Coal’s share.
      If more Electric vehicles come to the market place, the growth will start surging again.

      • Indeed. The growth is impressive in part because it is basically just taking from coal.

  • Freddy D

    Love this article. Some impressions:

    Glad to see “Wind + Solar” broken out because other renewables (geothermal, hydro, biomass) have limited headroom to scale but wind and solar aren’t anywhere close to hitting limits.

    2 percentage points growth for wind and solar from 5 to 7 percent of generation. This is phenomenal and as long as growth remains exponential, the total generation story will get very interesting in coming years.

    500 GW of gas capacity – I never looked and had no idea. This is actually great news for renewable. These existing plants complement renewable until the day that we have 100GW or more of economical storage.

    Gas plants come in 250MW increments, so growth is lumpy. So a year ago 2 units came on line and Q1 2016 it was zero. Hard to draw a conclusion off sample sizes like this.

  • Roland

    The stage is being set for a change in the Wind industry. Models in the 3.0 – 3.5 MW capacity are being introduced by manufacturers. Also, much taller towers are now being designed and evaluated – 120 – 140 meters as opposed to the 80-90 meters now employed. This will open new areas for wind development, closer to load centers on the east coast and southeast.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Wind resource in Montana looks GREAT at 140 meters. PSE in Washington State still buys 23% coal power from Montana. Why when we can buy lower cost Wind? (…and then there’s that beautiful class 7 site in Wyoming next door) Time to change!

      • Bob_Wallace

        If one of our environmentally conscious billionaires was looking for a project to help accelerate the fight against climate change I would think a demonstration wind farm in a couple of US locations would be a good undertaking.

        Stick a wind farm with 140 meter or taller hub heights in one of the ‘deep South’ states and start producing electricity. Show what can be done. If we’re right, the market will take over.

        • Epicurus

          How about a TVA-like project for utility scale solar and wind projects? A great jobs program too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            One of a number of good things the country could do.

            But Republicans in Congress will not let those things happen.

        • Matt

          Yes the 140m towers opens the south east up to wind. The taller towers is one of the main reasons I don’t buy into “all the good sites are taken” line.

      • Roland

        WInd resources look GREAT in Montana even at 80 or 100 meters. Yes, I’m wondering why, if they can transmit coal power to Washington & Oregon from Colstrip in S.E. Montana, can’t they transmit wind power from pretty much the same location.

        • Bob_Wallace

          As we decrease coal use, as the West Coast cuts back on the amount of coal-electricity it purchases, we should see transmission lines freed up. That makes room for wind, solar and hydro to be shipped back and forth between these areas.

          • Modok EvilMastermind

            That makes me wonder though…Are the wind sites not owned and run by the same utility that runs the coal plant? Is it just that coal is non-despatchable? Seems like wind would trump (no pun) coal in this scenario…

    • Frank

      GE will even sell you a 155m tower in exactly in that range you describe. https://www.gerenewableenergy.com/wind-energy/turbines/32-34.html

  • vensonata .

    Remarkable fall in the use of Coal. Beyond the most optimistic predictions. Yes, mostly due to gas, but the important economic damage to the coal industry is done. It shall not recover from its grievous wounds.

    • Roland

      I quite agree. A 24% drop in an already ailing industry is something that really indicates a fundamental shift — to gas at this point.

      EIA projections have coal recovering a fair amount in the next five years because of gradually increasing nat. gas prices. But really, I can’t see that happening. Any recovery that might happen will be eaten away by growth in renewable generation.

      • neroden

        Increasing natgas prices won’t bring back the coal plants which are shut down. New solar farms will be bidding into that market, at 5 cents / kwh, and I just don’t see any way coal competes with that. And rooftop solar and energy efficiency will be reducing total electric demand at the same time.

      • jdeely

        Coal drop is remarkable. For an even better story look at Texas Y-Y.
        Overall usage down 4,000 GWh,
        Coal down 9,000GWh
        Nat Gas down 2,000 GWh
        Wind + solar up over 6,000 GWh

        • Yes, we published on that, but planning another piece on coal too.

          • jdeely

            Story is not just wind replacing coal. The key part is that Nat Gas usage did not increase – in fact for Q1 it declined. This may have been a fluke but in a few more years – once coal usage in TX is lower wind and solar will start replacing Nat Gas. In the long run that is the big story.

          • Hoping to see a trend in that direction.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Replacing coal with NG is a good thing. NG is highly dispatchable and can(will) be turned off when solar and wind are available. With solar and wind dropping below the price of gas per kWh utilities which own both aren’t going to burn gas when they can avoid it.

      The low rate of NG plant construction likely means that utilities have installed enough to cover the loss of EPA-caused coal plant closures. Utilities have enough NG capacity to enable them to keep the grid powered.

      While NG usage has increased over the last few years fossil fuels have been losing market share to renewables. With the dropping prices of wind and solar along with the flexibility of NG plants we are almost certain to see an acceleration of FF market loss.


      • Bob_Wallace

        Some follow up based on 2016 1st Qtr data. In 2015 coal and natural gas supplied 65.6% of US electricity. During the first quarter of 2015 they provided 64.5%.

        For the first quarter of 2016 coal and natural gas dropped to 60.7% of total electricity supply.

        If this trend holds then we could see a 4% to 5% larger market share for renewables for.

      • Freddy D

        Thanks for the comments on natural gas and how it facilitates renewable growth. I want to give this comment multiple thumbs up.

      • neroden

        There’s definitely evidence that utilities have overbuilt their natgas plants, and a bunch of them sit idle a fair percentage of the time. Most of them built enough natgas to account for all the planned coal closures, and for all the planned demand increases. The drop in electrical demand took most utilities by surprise, and the increasing share of wind and solar took them by surprise too. The result has been two things: closing even more coal plants, and idling natgas plants.

        The excess NG plant capacity is a good thing as it means we probably have enough potential capacity to account for the mythical “week with no sun or wind”.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “The excess NG plant capacity is a good thing as it means we have enough capacity to account for the mythical “week with no sun or wind”.”

          It would be great to think we’ve reached that point. I suspect there are some grid areas where we aren’t quite there yet. The areas that are very coal-heavy, for example.

      • Matt

        That chart need to be on the right hand banner of Cleantechnica!
        It sums up the whole where is USA electric headed. A dashed line of coal only might be fun, but would mess the vertical scale up.

    • Freddy D

      Hopefully there is some concerted effort to redeploy those workers to other productive careers. Doesn’t help anyone if they have nowhere to go and keep fighting hard to keep the industry alive.

      • JimBouton

        I get your point, but I am always amazed that this seems to be the only industry that we have to worry about worker displacement.

        When auto plants went overseas or automated, there was no great cry for those workers to be retrained. Textiles and the steel industry, brick and mortar stores (due to Walmart and later online), even financial institutions. Many other industries have suffered the same fate as coal companies, but seemed to be justified (and welcomed) under capitalism’s destructiveness advancement.

        Coal miners (which is a horrible occupation) seems to be the exception and it clearly is a job that should go away (and most have due to automation – or just blowing up stuff.) Of course, I am sure that the reason has nothing to do with politics.

        • Matt

          If you recall Reagan told them to vote with their feet. That is pick up and move from the rust belt to the south west.

    • JamesWimberley

      It’s noteworthy that in spite of very low gas prices, next to no gas generating capacity is being purchased. Inference: utiities are comfortable integrating the current and immediately planned volume of wind and solar with their grids using the existing gas fleet for backup. Since overall demand is falling, and gas prices are expected to rise, we are unlikely to see a recovery in investment in new gas capacity for some time.

      The inimitable EIA “Baghdad Bob” forecasting team sees a recovery in coal coming from a rising gas price. But coal is not despatchable, and the regulatory pressure is not going to drop. Utility executives can read polls like the rest of us, and they know that Clinton is very probably the next US President, environmental hawk Merrick Garland will be the next appointee to the Supreme Court, and the CPP will be confirmed.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Getting a little ahead of yourself on US election, but funny!
        Don’t count your chickens too soon, we could still see Trump in office. Yuck!

        • Kevin McKinney

          Yeah, we need to organize and work this cycle… in spades.

          • Matt

            While Im not a big Clinton fan, this is one of the most important election in the last 50 years. If you care about the world or even just this country, then you need to be working to impact the result of this election and not just the top. We need to move as many climate deniers out as possible.

          • nitpicker357

            Certainly this is one of the 13 most important U.S. presidential elections in the last 50 years.

          • ROBwithaB

            Am I really the only person who thought this was funny?

          • ROBwithaB

            The fact that, out of about 300 million people, you are left to choose between Biliary and the Don, tells us something very frightening about the American political system.

        • neroden

          Even with Trump I don’t think coal generation has a chance. Most importantly, it’s non-dispatchable as James noted. Second, it has a lot of state governments gunning against it: the political winds mean coal can’t come back in New York, California, Washington, or Oregon, for example.

          • Kevin McKinney

            I hope you are right, and certainly you make some good points.

            However, I suspect we’d all agree that having a climate realist in the White House will be much better than having a denialist. It is true that it’s hard to know what Trump would actually try to do, as he is vague (if you are talking about concrete policy details), inconsistent, and quite often proposes actions which (as you note in one regard) are just not possible. But I think it’s clear that whatever he *could* do to fight clean energy, he *would*.

            And of course, what we really need is much more aggressive climate action–we need a leader, not a lead weight.

          • vensonata .

            I think we may see that Trumps success stops dead in its tracks. The people who voted for Trump are in a wingnut party. There are only so many wingnuts in the U.S. They have expressed themselves exhaustively and simply cannot be the majority of American voters.

      • jdeely

        Plenty of natural gas plants under construction – almost 20GW and a lot more in various stages of development. There are a lot of states with very small natural gas fleets.

        • Roland

          There’s a fairly good sized gas plant under construction in central Iowa, like 500 or 600 MW I think. It’s due to come online next March.

          The interesting part about this is that it likely will replace coal generation in the state. That cuts coal generation, and with the 650 MW of wind added last year and the 550 MW being added this year, on top of last years 31% wind — well guess what’s soon to become the primary source of electrical power generation in that state?

          • jdeely

            Iowa in 2015
            30.4K GWh – Coal
            2.5K GWh Nat Gas
            5.2K GWh Nuclear
            17.9K GWh Wind

            Still some ways to go for wind to be on top – Looks to me like Iowa could use at least another 2-3 Nat Gas plants.

          • Roland

            Those numbers will likely change in 2017 to something that looks more like the following:

            21.5K GWh – Wind
            20.8K GWh – Coal
            8.5K GWh – Nat Gas
            5.2K GWh – Nuclear

          • Bob_Wallace

            The 5.2k GWh for nuclear is unlikely. At least three US reactors should be closing before mid-2017.

            Fort Calhoun is scheduled to close at the end of 2016.

            Fitzpatrick and Clinton are scheduled to close in 2017.

          • jdeely

            None of those plants are in Iowa… and that is what the 5GWh is referring to.

            The Duane Arnold Energy Center – the only nuclear plant in Iowa – recently got a license extension out to 2034.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ah, they’re right on the border, but not in Iowa.

            License extension is not an indication that plants will stay in business. The most likely to survive are plants with more than one reactor. They can spread some operating costs over multiple reactors which results in lower operating costs.

            Arnold has a single 581 MW reactor. Kewaunee had single single sized reactor which was in good operating system and had years left on its license but was closed in 2013. At about 5c/kWh it couldn’t compete.

            The owners just spent close to $200 million refurbishing Fort Calhoun (476 MW) and its license had been extended to 2033 but it’s closing.

            Clinton (1078 MW) has a license to operate until 2026 but is now scheduled to go dark next year.

          • jdeely

            Yep all good points. By the way, Ft Calhoun was @7c/kWh in 2015.

            Have not heard any rumblings for closing Arnold though. Plus Arnold has a deal to supply 431MW to Allianz Energy for 11 years.


            “In a release, the utility said the contract will take effect in 2014, and the NextEra plant was selected following a competitive bidding process. The Iowa Utilities Board has already issued an order allowing the contract to move forward.

            Quoting an Alliant spokesman, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that the plant will provide 431 megawatts at a rate about 30 percent lower than under the current contract.”

            Unusual to see a PPA for nuclear. It would be good if we had more of them.

          • Bob_Wallace

            At 7c one can see why Calhoun didn’t make it. Kewaunee, I think, was a couple pennies under that.

            Yes, a PPA could lock the reactor in for the length of the contract. But if the contract price is too high –

            Florida Power and Light purchased a coal plant with whom they had a PPA and then closed it down. It was cheaper to do that than to buy electricity at the contract price for the term of the agreement. However I’d suspect the decom costs of the reactor would protect it from being bought and closed.

            Interesting times. The old order is getting a real shaking.

          • jdeely

            If you have an hour to spare – you might enjoy this debate.
            I was attendee. Very interesting times.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I have limited bandwidth. Watching an hour long nuclear debate is probably not something I’d want to spend money on.

            I read through the comments to see if I could get a feel for what was said. It seemed like the pro-nuclear people were saying something along the line of “One of the future reactor designs will bring the price down. Trust us.” And “The danger of nuclear energy is overplayed.”

            You were there. What prices for wind, solar and nuclear were people using? That’s the critical variable, not safety.

            What were the reasons given for a nuclear renaissance?

          • jdeely

            3 cents for solar and wind. These came from PPAs mentioned at CEM7 earlier in the week.

            Nuclear reasons were primarily seasonal demand mismatch and doubt in capability of storage to last long enough.

            Chu did say he thought 50% renewables was possible in US by 2050…

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m surprised Chu is thinking such a low number. The US is now about 14% renewable (including hydro). Getting to 100% renewable by 2050 would mean converting about 2.5% of the grid to renewables per year. That’s a very doable level.

            “Nuclear reasons were primarily seasonal demand mismatch and doubt in capability of storage to last long enough.”

            Chu has stated that pump-up hydro costs about 10c/kWh. We’ve got thousands and thousands of places to build PuHS and could do that faster than building nuclear.

            Plus if the pro-nuclear people are thinking about using some reactors only on a seasonal basis that would drive the cost through the ceiling. A reactors that produces at 15c/kWh and gets used only to supply summer and winter higher demands would mean 30c/kWh electricity. We could massively overbuild 3c/kWh wind and solar for far, far less.

          • jdeely

            Chu % discussion is near 40 minute mark if you want to skip there.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thanks. They move too slowly for me.

            The last 20%? Chu can’t see how to supply the last 20% with renewables?
            Budischak, et al. used four years of demand from the PJM grid (largest wholesale grid in the US) along with wind and solar data from NOAA and had problems supplying only the last 0.1% affordably with wind, solar and storage.

            They didn’t even include hydro, tidal, biofuels, load-shifting and power exchanges with adjacent grids.

            The Budischak paper strong armed its way to 99.9% renewables by (affordably) overbuilding wind and solar.
            Nuclear would not be an affordable way to provide that last 20%. The last 20% Chu seems to be talking about is seasonal. Those really hot summer afternoons and really cold winter nights when demand is peaking. Run a 15c/kWh reactor only 20% of the time? That’s 60c/kWh electricity.

            If we paid 60c for 20% of our electricity our rates would go sky high. 80% at 3c and 20% at 60c = 14.4c/kWh plus grid expenses for a wholesale price. Our retail price is under 13c.

            Better idea. Convert some paid off coal plants to biomass. (We’ve done that already.) And pile up wood pellets from waste wood to fuel them during peak need periods. Or run CCNG plants on methane from landfills and municipal sewage. Or convert existing dams to PuHS. Or beef up our transmission system.

          • Frank

            Or TOU pricing. 50 years ago, no computers, no internet. It’s a different day.

          • Frank

            It is my view that nuclear proponents start with a basic premise. We have to have nuclear. When confronted with a Bob who says we don’t need it. Prove that it’s better than our other options, they can’t. They really want/need you to take it on faith, and we don’t.
            As to their it’s not that unsafe, who cares? The newesr reactors are the AP1000, and the new european one. More expensive than ever. One day, they’ll have a cheaper one without cutting corners? That’s nice. Let me know when you get there. Your target is 2 cents. Good luck. In the mean time, renewables.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s my take as well. The pro-nuclear people start with a belief that nuclear is necessary.

            Then they spend their energy trying to rebutt arguments about the cost of nuclear (“The next generation will be affordable, trust us (again)”. They’ve been running that game for decades while the cost keeps going higher and higher.

            They blame the high cost of nuclear on regulations. But when pushed they can’t identify a single regulation which could be safely dropped and how much that would save.

            When really pushed I’ve seen nuclear advocates suggest we could dispense with site surveys for earthquake risk. And one very strong advocate suggested we do away with reactor security personnel and if terrorists do manage to take over a reactor we send in the local SWAT team to get them out.

            And they look for reasons why renewables can’t work (“They aren’t energy dense”) which they also accept on faith, never questioning their belief.

            Technology is changing. In the 1980s wind and solar were too expensive. Nuclear was our most affordable alternative. Same with EVs. Batteries were too expensive and hydrogen fuel cell cars looked to be the answer. Compressed air vehicles looked to be a good short range option. Some people seem to have locked in on one of those ideas and don’t seem to have the ability to question their position as new data appears.

            I saw the same thing happen with the switch from slide rules to calculators, from typewriters and ledger books to computers, from film to digital.

            What I find very interesting about many of the pro-nuclear people is that they seem to be engineers. A group of people who I think should be data sensitive. People who are trained to look at numbers and do cost analysis.

          • jdeely

            Yep – if not by 2017 then shortly after.
            It would be nice if we saw the following by 2020.

            26 GWh – Wind
            14K GWh – Nat Gas
            9k GWh – Coal
            5 GWh – Nuclear
            2 GW – Solar

      • Ulenspiegel

        “But coal is not despatchable, and the regulatory pressure is not going to drop.”

        The first statement is highly debatable – you only have to check the situation in Germany where hard coal replaced NG in 2010-2015. Mid load hard coal power plants are dispatchable and kill NG turbines when the price of NG increases, the economic situation is the same in the USA.

        “they know that Clinton is very probably the next US President”

        Really? If there is an lawsuit against her she is politically dead, interesting question is whether Obama can curb the FBI, which is not pro-Clinton. But I admit than Sanders would not be any improvement for the coal (power) industry.

        • Bob_Wallace

          A lawsuit against Clinton would kill her politically? For doing what was done by the three Secretaries of State before her? And by many other government officials?

          The FBI is going to bring criminal charge for breaking a guideline?

          Donald Trump has 3,500 suits filed against him.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Only breaking a guideline is not the issue, which crucial information was leaked by her?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Nothing. At least nothing has been found after intensive searching.

            No information which was classified was transmitted in her email. Neither did she receive any classified information from other sources via email.

    • Mike333

      The growth of fracking has stopped.
      That’s more important.

  • Doug Cutler

    These are the kind of stories I like to repost to my Facebook page. But it shows up better when the link features a dramatic photo of a wind or solar installation instead of a chart. Just a suggestion.

    • JamesWimberley

      The problem is that they al look the same. This is a feature not a bug: both technologies use highly replicable and pretty standardised designs, allowing economies of scale like DC3s and Model T Fords. If you want an arresting photo, go to power tower CSP – but it’s not responsible for the growth.

      • Doug Cutler

        James, not sure I completely understand your response. Why would I want a CSP photo? Its mostly unrelated. And no, the photos do not all look the same, at least not to my eyes. All other renewable energy stories that I’ve ever reposted had interesting lead photos that were usually very apropos. I think that is a good strategy for encouraging reposting in general. Like it or not, its a very visual media age we live in. And there is still a lot of “selling” to do for clean energy.

      • neroden

        Actually, there are lots of subtle differences in solar panel technology which make them look different to the practiced eye.

        Do close-ups, perhaps, showing the different designs (monocrystalline, multicrystalline, amorphous, various thin-films, different ways of cutting the panels, different mountings). Some are blacker, others have a blue tinge; there are lines for conductors across some, others have back-contact conductors and are solid…. tracking mounts look different from standard mounts…

    • Thanks for the note. I figured people are tired of seeing solar panels and wind turbines since, as James notes, they are quite standardised designs. Also, I am more drawn in by charts and thought others were too. But I can start including photos in these articles, which you should then be able to select as the featured photos. 😀

      • nitpicker357

        I love charts, but I don’t care if you lead with them. It’s probably a bad idea, but what if you lead with 1 or more wind turbines or a solar field, and identified the model in the caption?

    • Actually, adding onto my other comment, I just added a pretty image to the top of the article. It’s not showing as an option for me when trying to share to Facebook, but if you upload the photo to facebook and then add a note and link to the article, it should perform even better than simply sharing the article.

      • Doug Cutler

        Thanks so much for taking the extra effort. I guess I’m just spoiled from all your previous work. I’ve reposted numerous Cleantechnica stories before and they’ve all had great lead graphics. So now I’m getting picky. What I look for in my reposts are important stories that can grab the attention of a wider circle, people who may or may not be interested in a clean tech story in between cat videos and guacamole recipes. You have about 2 secs to catch their attention so high impact graphics always help.

        I have no tech background, I come from the arts. So maybe I think about things a little differently. I often fear I bog down the discussion here so lately I try to limit myself. But personally, I never grow tired of seeing photos of wind turbines and solar panels ( then again I’m also the kind of guy who can spend hours sitting beside a waterfall meditating upon the infinite variation of splash patterns and ripples in the water.)

        Rambling. Back to the point, the clean energy revolution underway barely registers in MSM which is why I think what happens hear is so important. You’re not just informers of the clean tech community but point men in a battle against FF propaganda. Your potential audience is more than just the many tech savvy denizens of this place but also the wider world. Consider the adversary is very sly and cunning, diabolical even. They routinely use professional, polished media and unconscious emotional manipulation to promote their agenda. Witness the Energy Voter ads on CNN (to think CNN used to run entire specials on climate change). Seen are shinny, happy people gleefully gushing over an “all of the above” energy policy – translation: subsidize “all of the above” except renewables. Its a battle not just for minds persuaded by graphs and data but a battle for HEARTS and minds with the future viability of civil society on the line.

        So, its in this spirit that I offer my very marginal critique of the unabridged story in question and its lead graphics in particular: As stated, I like a well composed, eye-catching photograph. But even with a graph you could still go for higher visual impact. To my eye the lead graph here is a rather pallid view of light green against grey. Very low contrast. Plus the text appears rather small. It takes some initial effort to start sorting through the data presented. It just doesn’t draw the eye of the wider world. (I’m also thinking of some of Bob’s charts that are more immediately discernible – especially the ones showing relative change in energy share over time by sector.)

        Now, to me 99% to 1% is a VERY exciting ratio – even if just for Q1. It shows what is possible. It gives FF trolls pause. So I would have tried to make the graph POP accordingly. Maybe something like a big pie chart of 99% bright green against white, dotted with turbine and solar panel icons all surrounding a skinny slice of black with a lonely smokestack. Or perhaps a bar chart with a towering slab, once again bright green, towering over a tiny stub of cowering black. (It distorts the big picture, yes but, that’s not the story here. The story is a horse race in which some gangling dark horse stuck in the backfield is finally finding its stride and starting to run like the wind.)

        As I say, the battle field is for hearts also, often lead by their first by their eyes in this age of visual media. Its also becoming increasingly clear these days that humans are far more creatures of emotion than reason. The adversary knows this very well and uses it to their advantage. I think we need to play the game too. Too much is at stake.

        Finally, petty little critique pertains to about .002% of what you do here. Please keep up the great work.

        • Bob_Wallace

          If you like photos of wind farms check this site –








          Whoever picks their art does a great job of finding really nice windfarm images.

          Charts, I’m old school. I was taught to put your information into chart form so that someone could glance at it and come away with pretty much all of your message.

          I dislike some of the current color choices that make me struggle to figure out what is what. (And I’m not at all color blind.) Too often there seems to be too much effort put into the art of the chart and not enough into the messaging.

          • Matt

            Yes, some of the charts make me want to say “include your excel file, so I can chart it”

        • Matt

          I will say it is important not to use the same photo to often. For 6 months “every” story on distributed solar in China used the same picture. Made you think there was only one roof top install in China 😮

        • Great stuff. Thanks. And I honestly don’t know on what’s better regarding the pics. I think charts capture our main audience very well, but really don’t know regarding broader audiences — aside from the fact that faces pull people in more than just about anything. And believe me, appreciate the feedback and tips. Greatly appreciate them.

          “Back to the point, the clean energy revolution underway barely registers in MSM which is why I think what happens hear is so important. You’re not just informers of the clean tech community but point men in a battle against FF propaganda.”
          –Believe me… I know. Am often trying to think of how to get more attention in the MSM for these important topics, but agree that we need to do so even more. It’s sad that MSM doesn’t have a good grasp on these industries and the change that is happening, but the more we can help them, the further we go in achieving our mission. (No, we don’t have an explicit mission, but I think it’s pretty clear. :D)

          ” Its also becoming increasingly clear these days that humans are far more creatures of emotion than reason. The adversary knows this very well and uses it to their advantage. I think we need to play the game too.”
          –Indeed… And I’ve given presentations on this (my favorite one even), but should do a lot more to follow my own advice. 😀

        • … and, just added a couple of new images in there. try sharing again? 😀

        • jeffhre

          Ooooooh, “guacamole recipes.” I’ll have to check that out.

  • Folatt

    In other words,

    while Wind and Solar can beat Fossil Fuel prices in the USA, it was not able to cope with it’s massive downfall.

    I believe 2016 will be able to halve this problem because of the amount of added solar capacity in the U.S. for 2016-2017 will be ten times that of the year before?

    • Mike Shurtleff

      “while Wind and Solar can beat Fossil Fuel prices in the USA, it was not able to cope with it’s massive downfall.”
      Cost was not low enough until the last few years. Game has now changed.

  • Adrian

    Projecting each segment’s growth/loss out a couple years, renewables (incl hydro & biomass) generate more GWh than nuclear by 2018. Maybe late 2017.

    Wind passes hydro sometime in 2017?

    32%, 33%, 35% CAGR in GWh for wind, utility PV and small PV starts to add up fast in coming years, I hope we can maintain that growth rate.

    • Roland

      >Wind passes hydro sometime in 2017?

      Probably not. More likely about 2019. Hydro averages about 6.8% and this year wind should be about 5.3%. Wind is growing at most 0.7% per year, and is not exponential at this point. So that would be another three years before it surpasses hydro.

      • sault

        Wind production grew by ~ 15 GWh in Q1 2016 over Q1 2015. Since wind produced 45GWh in Q1 2015, this is a 33% annual growth over the last year. This may represent some pent-up demand from the re-introduction of the PTC, but it is still a lot higher than 0.7% annual growth.

        If the extra 15GWh is in fact due to the PTC getting re-instated, let’s assume the industry can sustain a lower 25% annual growth rate. In this case, the industry adds another 15GWh of production by Q1 2017, getting wind within spitting-distance of hydropower’s 77 GWh of production. Just to be on the safe side, wind power should produce more than hydro in Q2 2017.

        BTW, even a 15% annual growth rate gets us to 100% wind power by 2035:

        100% = 6% * e^(0.15 * 19 years)

        This rate will probably slow down due to negative scale effects like transmission bottlenecks, prime wind sites already taken up and pushback from dying fossil fuel companies (or utilities with lots of stranded assets) just to name a few, but probably not before it reaches 30% or so. Even then, there are ways around all of these problems.

        • Roland

          You have to remember that 2015 was a low wind year in places like Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, & Oregon. Much of that growth in wind energy is simply recovering from a bad year.

          Look at the amount of capacity installed – about 8 GW. That’s about a 12.5% growth over what the capacity was at the end of 2014. You can’t simply grow the amount of wind energy without growing the installed capacity by a comparable amount. And the capacity isn’t growing in an exponential fashion. It’s likely to remain at about 8GW per year for the next several years.

          • Ah, yeah, I forgot about that.

          • neroden

            So that gets us to roughly 2019 for when wind passes hydro. I believe it’s stopped growing exponentially due to siting difficulties, because I know of lots of wind projects caught in “permitting hell”. The manufacturers could probably double production, and the electricity buyers would certainly buy the ultra-cheap electricity, but there’s no point if there’s nowhere to *put* the turbines.

        • TatuSaloranta

          Yes except that 15% year over year is NOT linear but exponential. And that 0.7 reference was for percentage points of wind’s share, which would be steady linear growth rate over multiple years. Assuming that rate it would take over 100 years for the whole generation of electricity. The real answer is probably somewhere in between; wind probably will not ever make majority of electricity, but may get to 40-50%, depending on exactly how high solar grows.

      • JamesWimberley

        Roland’s 0.7% a year is the annual growth in market share, not in absolute volume.

        • Roland

          Yes. Thanks for clairifying that.

  • jburt56

    33+ years to 2050 => 3% growth per year in market share. . .

    • Mike333

      Is that a linear projection?
      You need to think geometric growth.

      • Bob_Wallace

        That’s an average of what would be necessary. I suspect we’ll see continued acceleration of installation rates for a few more years but we’ll settle into a more linear growth pattern.

        The goal is to get rid of the ~60% role coal and natural gas plays. 3% per year, average, would wipe them out in about 20 years. Hopefully we’ll average something a bit higher.

        We also need to realize that we’ll be helped by increased efficiency but we also need to generate more electricity for EVs as they grow in number.

        • neroden

          I see no reason why geometric growth of solar would stop.

          — We’re nowhere near putting solar panels on even *half* the roofs in the country.

          — The price of utility solar just reached levels where many utilities can’t very well buy anything else; in order to do so they’d have to convince their stockholders and public utility commissions that they should be permitted to waste money.

          — I don’t see any production-side bottlenecks in the near future. I also don’t see any financing bottlenecks; new solar panel installers and manufacturers continue to get financing as the “solar gold rush” continues unabated.

          I would actually expect solar panel installation growth rates to accelerate as we cross these critical price points, and then to continue geometric growth for years beyond that.

          If you see a bottleneck which would cause it to drop to linear, do tell. In wind the bottleneck is siting: the best sites are taken, and the remaining ones either have worse wind or more NIMBYs or recalcitrant landowners or more difficult construction. We have no such phenomena going on with solar, as far as I can tell tell.

          • Adrian

            On wind and the “best sites” – it may be profitable to upgrade older turbines in these sites to new multi-MW monsters.

            If you already have the permits, getting approval for uprated units is probably quite cheap, and the access roads and transmission links are already built.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you’re thinking double digit growth per year then you run into practical limits. If by geometric you mean modest annual increases once we reach the “Damn, we’re installing a lot of solar very year” point then I don’t see that happening.

          • Frank

            The geat plains states are all great for wind. Run a couple of big transmission lines out of there, and watch your siting problems get figured out. For farmers, it’s one more cash crop.

        • Matt

          It isn’t likely, but a real carbon fee would greatly increase the rate.

          • Frank

            If you did the carbon tax right, hardly anybody would notice it. First of all, you could phase it in and make it revenue neutral, and secondly, it would effectively be a temporary tax, because it is so cheap and easy to avoid, at least for electricity, and in a decade, I’m guessing transport too.

    • CU

      Well, with your maths, since coal drops >25% a year coal will be gone within 4 years!

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