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Wind Energy Primary Source of New U.S. Generating Capacity in October

More than two-thirds of new U.S. generating capacity in October 2014 is from wind energy

Wind energy provides more the two-thirds new generating capacity in the US for October 2014With the latest release of the Energy Infrastructure Update report by the Federal Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, wind energy emerged the leader in new U.S.  electrical generating capacity for October.

Five new wind farms in Colorado, Kansas. Michigan, Nebraska and Texas came online last month, bringing 574 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity, or 68.41 percent of the total. In addition to the new wind capacity, seven “units” of biomass provided 102 MW of new capacity, or 12.16 percent of the total, and five units of solar contributed 31 MW for 3.69 percent of October’s new generation. The rest, 132 MW, came from three units of natural gas at 15.73 percent.

October marks the eighth time this year the renewable sources of energy, including biomass, hydropower, solar, wind and geothermal, has produced the majority of new electrical generation brought into service in the United States. The other two months, April and August, the main source was natural gas.

Since January 1st 2014 9,903 MW of new generating capacity has come online from all sources. 2,189 MW from 34 units of wind energy account for 22.10 percent of that total, followed by 1.801 MW of solar at 18.19 percent; 45 units of biomass at 241 MW for 2.43 percent; 141 MW from 7 units of hydropower for 1.42 percent and finally 32 MW from 5 units geothermal provided 0.32 percent of new capacity through October.

In all, renewable energy sources have contributed 44.47 percent of new generating capacity in the U.S. thus far in 2014. Most of the rest of new capacity came from natural gas, with 45 units, or 5,373 MW comprising 54,26 percent of the total. Less than 1 percent each of new capacity came from 1 unit of nuclear (71 MW), 15 units if oil (47 MW) and 6 units of “other” (7 MW). No new generating capacity from coal has been added in 2014. Renewable sources have provided 37 times the new capacity this year than from coal, oil and nuclear combined.

Renewable a growing share of total capacity

Of the total installed generating capacity in the United States, renewable sources account for 16.39 percent. The breakdown is 8.44 percent from hydro, 5.39 percent from wind, 1.38 percent from biomass, 0.85 percent from solar and 0.33 percent from geothermal.

 “Congress is debating whether to renew the production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy sources,” says Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The continued rapid growth of these technologies confirms that the PTC has proven to be a very sound investment.”

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its most recent 5-page “Energy Infrastructure Update,” with data through October 31, 2014, on November 21, 2014. See the tables titled “New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion)” and “Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity” at: http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2014/oct-infrastructure.pdf  .

* Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Generation per MW of capacity (i.e., capacity factor) for renewables is often lower than that for fossil fuels and nuclear power. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources now totals almost 14% of total U.S. electrical production according to the most recent data (i.e., as of August 2014) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (see: http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly); however, this figure almost certainly understates renewables’ actual contribution because EIA does not fully account for all electricity generated by distributed renewable energy sources.

The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1992 to aggressively promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

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 Image credit: Theodore Scott, courtesy flickr

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