California Continues To Lead U.S. In Green Technology

U.S. renewable power continued to grow in 2014, with preliminary federal data showing almost exactly half of the year’s new installed capacity coming from renewable sources.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reported on Thursday that 15,384 megawatts of new generation went into service in 2014, and 49.9 percent of that came from wind, solar and other renewables. In 2013, renewable sources provided 43.5 percent of all new capacity.

Wind led the way among renewables in the December FERC Energy Infrastructure Update [PDF], with 4,080 MW, but that figure could well be updated upward – an industry group report released this week showed 4,875 MW added in 2014.

While wind grew substantially (FERC had 2013 capacity additions at 1,690 MW), utility-scale solar didn’t fare quite as well, with the FERC report showing 3,139 MW of new capacity coming online compared to the record-breaking 3,828 MW that was added in 2013.

new generation chart

Source: FERC, Units = MW

As in 2013, natural gas was the single biggest source of new generating capacity in 2014: 7,485 MW was added – 48.7 percent of the overall total – including 2,112 MW in December alone as Dominion Virginia Power switched on the 1,329-MW Warren Power Generating Station and Entergy Louisiana powered up the 561-MW Nine Mile Point plant.

The biggest December additions on the renewables side came with MidAmerican Energy’s continued expansion of wind in Iowa – the company, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, brought online three wind farms totaling 506 MW – and another new mammoth solar project in California, the 280-MW Mojave Solar project owned by Abengoa.

percent installed capacity

Source: FERC

While the FERC report captures the vast bulk of the country’s energy-generating capacity, it does miss so-called “distributed” sources. Small wind projects are among those overlooked, but the most significant new source of power not counted is the thousands of megawatts of photovoltaic panels now going on the rooftops of U.S. homes and businesses every year.

Utility-scale solar has accounted for more than half of all new solar PV in the past year and a half, yet in the third quarter of 2014, the U.S. residential solar market cracked 300 MW for the first time, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Notably, too, the SEIA said that more than half of that residential PV wasn’t backed by state incentives, although it did benefit from the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit.