Half of new US capacity from RE

More than half of the new power-generation capacity taken online in the US during the first half of the year came from solar and wind, thanks to booming solar installations and a steep fall-off in natural gas and coal.

Together, solar and wind accounted for about 52% of new capacity additions during the January-June period, compared to 25% during the same period last year, according to new figures from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The strong performance from renewables came within a significantly shrunken overall pie, with the US adding just 3,529MW of new capacity during the first half of 2014, compared to 8,496MW during the same period in 2013.

With the exception of geothermal, which makes up only a sliver of the US installed base, additions of every single generation source have dwindled in 2014 compared to 2013 – with early 2014 having presented extreme winter weather conditions in many parts of the country.

Solar accounted for 32% of new additions so far this year, compared to 14% last year -- making it second only to natural gas.

Natural gas-fired power plants accounted for 44% of new additions, while wind took the number three slot, with a 20% share.

Many utility-scale solar plants were brought online during the first half of 2014, including the 50MW Macho Springs project in New Mexico, and the 125MW second phase of NextEra's Genesis concentrating solar power project in California.

Meanwhile, PV developers are increasingly winning power purchase agreement outside the scope of statewide Renewable Portfolio Standards in places like Utah and Minnesota, boding well for future years.

Although natural gas retained its number one position, total installations decreased markedly in the first half of 2014 – falling to 1,555MW from 4,498MW during the year-ago period.

The biggest loser of all was coal, with no new capacity added so far in 2014, compared to 1,543MW at two units during first-half 2013.

Coal retains the second most installed generation capacity in the US, covering 28% of the installed base, but that figure is set to shrink sharply over the coming years, thanks in part to the Obama administration’s recently announced greenhouse gas regulations.

Natural gas accounts for 42% of the nation’s installed electricity generation base, followed by coal, nuclear (9.2%), hydro (8.6%), wind (5.3%), oil (4%), biomass (1.4%) and solar (0.75%).