Solar and Other Renewables Maintain Lead in U.S. Generating Capacity Installed


The latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” reports that renewable energy sources provided 55.7% of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity in the first half of 2014, with solar coming in at 1,131 MW. The trend is expected to continue, both in the U.S. and globally.


Solar power accounts for nearly a third of new U.S. generating capacity installed so far in 2014. That’s the word from the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is.

Each quarter, we’re getting reports of high numbers for renewables capacity added, with solar maintaining a prominent position.

For Q1 2014, renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, water, and wind) accounted for 92.1% of the 1,150 MW of new domestic electrical generating capacity installed, with solar leading the way at 584 MW. For the full first half of the year, renewable energy sources provided 55.7% of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed). Solar came in at 1,131 MW for that period.

As before, most of the balance (1,555 MW, or 44.1%) of the new generating capacity was provided by natural gas. And maintaining their last place at zero: coal and nuclear power, which have been consistent this year in adding no new generating capacity at all.

According to the SUN DAY Campaign, the dominant role being played by renewables in providing new electrical generating capacity in 2014 is continuing a trend now several years in the making. Since January 1, 2012, renewable energy sources have accounted for 48.0% (22,774 MW of the 47,446 MW) of new electrical generating capacity. Since January 1, 2011, renewables have provided more new electrical generating capacity than natural gas (31,345 MW vs. 29,176 MW) and nearly four times as much as coal (8,235 MW).

The percentage of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity from renewable energy sources has grown to 16.28%. The breakdowns: water is at 8.57%, wind at 5.26%, biomass at 1.37%, solar at 0.75%, and geothermal steam at 0.33%. This total is up from 14.76% two years earlier and is now higher than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (4.03%) combined.

Can we expect the trend to continue? A recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that 83 GW of renewable capacity will be added by 2040, with nearly half of that coming from solar PV. But the EIA is known for estimating on the conservative side.

Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, agrees. “A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting that renewable energy sources will account for only 24% of new capacity additions between now and 2040,” he notes. “However, the latest FERC data coupled with that published during the past several years indicate that EIA’s numbers are once again low-balling the likely share — and probably dominant share — of renewables in the nation’s future energy mix.”


This is consistent with what’s happening on a global level. A new report from GlobalData concludes that the distributed power generation market will expand substantially in just the next few years, more than doubling from 190 GW in 2013 to about 389 GW by 2019.


Of that, solar PV leads in global distributed power, at 48% of the total distributed installed capacity. Approximately $74.8 billion was invested in the global solar PV distributed power market in 2013, and GlobalData expects an increase for the global distributed power market to more than $114 billion by 2019.