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Electrical Generation Capacity from Renewable Sources Surges Under Obama

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Electrical generating capacity and net output has grown significantly under the Obama administrationElectrical generation from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal has grown dramatically under the Obama administration says Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign.

Bossong cites two new government studies that show a near doubling of non-hydro renewable energy sources contributing to U.S. electrical generation since president Obama took office.

The latest issue of the Electric Power Monthly from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) analyzes data through June 2012. The report shows that from January 1 to June 30, 2012 non-hydro renewable energy sources (geothermal, biomass, solar, and wind) provided 5.76 percent of net electrical generation, an increase of 10.97 percent for the same period last year. Utility scale solar increased 97.2 percent from one year ago, wind generation grew 16.3 percent and geothermal by 0.2 percent. Biomass declined by 0.8 percent.

For the first half of 2012, wind contributed 3.84 percent of net electrical generation with biomass following at 1.4 percent, geothermal at 0.45 percent and finally solar with 0.09 percent – noting that this figure does not take into account the significant growth in small solar systems such as rooftop PV solar and other non-utility-scale solar projects. Another 7.86 percent of net generation came from conventional hydropower, which declined 14.3 percent from the same period in 2011.

During the last full year of the Bush administration, non-hydro renewable energy sources contributed 3.06 percent to net electrical generation, averaging 10,508 gigawatt-hours of output per month. Since then average monthly electrical generation has grown 78.70 percent from non-renewable sources with an output of 18,777 gigawatt-hours as of mid-2012. Electrical output from solar has grown by 285.19 percent in the period from 2008 to mid-2012, wind by 171.72 percent, and geothermal by 13.53 percent. Biomass has dropped by 0.56 percent.

The second government study come from the Energy Infrastructure Update from the Office of Energy Projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). According to the latest data 38 percent of all new electrical generating capacity for the first half of 2012 came from 229 renewable energy projects (“capacity” does not mean actual generation). Fifty new wind projects accounted for 2,367 Megawatts (MW)  of capacity, solar has 111 projects for 588 MW, 59 biomass projects contribute 271 MW, 5 geothermal projects for 87 MW, and finally 4 water power projects at 11MW.

Electrical generating capacity from new renewable sources were more than double than new capacity from coal, with only 2 new coal projects coming online,  contributing 1,608 MW of capacity. Renewable energy sources now contribute 14.76 percent of total installed generating capacity in the United States:

  • Hydro: 8.66%
  • Wind: 4.30%
  • Biomass: 1.23%
  • Geothermal: 0.31%
  • Solar: 0.26% (again, this figure accounts only for utility-scale projects, not the significant contribution from smaller PV solar systems)

Overall, natural gas leads with 41.83 percent and coal with 29.66 percent of total installed capacity. Nuclear power stands steady at 9.16 percent with the final 0.07 percent coming from waste heat.

“The numbers speak for themselves – notwithstanding politically-inspired criticism, the pro-renewable energy policies pioneered by the Obama Administration have proven their worth through dramatic growth rates during the past three and one-half years,” said Bossong. “The investments in sustainable energy made by the federal government as well as individual states and private funders have paid off handsomely underscoring the short-sightedness of proposals to slash or discontinue such support.”

 

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