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12/05/2012 01:02 PM     print story email story  

Renewable Energy Beats Natural Gas: Supplies 46% of All New US Electricity Capacity

SustainableBusiness.com News

Almost half of all new electrical generating capacity added in the US this year is renewable energy - 46.22%.

Although we constantly hear about the boom in natural gas, renewables actually beat it in terms of new electrical capacity coming online. Natural gas accounts for 37.8% of new capacity and coal, 15.1%.

Even better for renewables, new capacity added this year beats 2011 by 47.7%, according to FERC's "Energy Infrastructure Update."

Renewables now supply 14.93% of US electricity when hydro is included, more than nuclear (9.27%) and oil (4.32%) combined. When hydro is excluded, renewables account for 5.2% of US electricity supplies, according to the US Energy Information Administration, up 13.3% from 2011. 

That's enough energy to power about 16 million American homes!

Almost two-thirds (63.44%) of non-hydro renewable electricity is wind generated, followed by biomass (26.70%), geothermal (7.78%), and solar (2.08%).

Solar increased 133.3% and wind grew 17.7%.

This map shows the results of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that are now law in 30 states and Washington DC. Federal production tax credits (PTC) and grants also contributed to the increases.

Both could be in jeopardy. ALEC is prioritizing eliminating RPS and the PTC has yet to be renewed.

Renewable Energy Growth Map

First 10 Months of 2012

This year, the majority of new capacity still comes from wind - 6969 MW in 92 projects (5,403 MW), but it's followed by solar, with 167 projects (1,032 MW), 79 biomass projects (409 MW), 7 geothermal projects (123 MW), and 9 water power projects (12 MW) that are now online.

"These additions understate actual solar capacity gains. Unlike other energy sources, significant levels of solar capacity exist in smaller, non-utility-scale applications - e.g., rooftop solar photovoltaics," says EIA.

37.8% of new capacity comes from natural gas with 5702 MW generated from 67 projects, and 3 new coal plants came online totaling 2276 MW - 15.1% of new capacity (down from 16.3%).

Nuclear dropped 1.1%, petroleum liquids by 20.3%, and petroleum coke by 35.5%. Conventional hydro also declined 14.5%. Among non-renewable energy sources, only natural gas showed an increase - 26.1%.

"The continued strong growth by renewable energy sources for electrical power generation over the past four or five years vindicates the investments made in these technologies," says Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "Moreover, their rapid expansion underscores their near-term viability for ultimately phasing out both fossil fuels and nuclear power."

As of 2011, renewables supply about 25% of the world's electricity, when hydro is included.



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