Solar Surges and Wind Wanes in the USA. The first look at comprehensive data on energy generation infrastructure shows a big jump in Solar. Natural gas and wind on the other hand had a massive decline.
According to FERC, 14,207 megawatts of new capacity came online in 2013. This is less than half the 29,710 MW added in the previous year.
Solar contributed 2,936 MW of the 2013 total. Up from 2,056 MW in 2012. Solar accounted for 21 percent of overall capacity additions. It’s always important to point out with solar that these totals represent utility-scale development. Solar is unique in that it has a significant distributed side, on the rooftops of homes and businesses. The Solar Energy Industries Association expects new solar to be 4,268 MW.
Wind will add 1,129 MW in 2013. Less than a tenth of the 12,425 MW that went in the year before. When developers work furiously to get projects complete, they qualify for a key subsidy. The sector is expects a bounce back this year with 4,000-5,000 MW of new capacity. The long-term future remains a bit cloudy. A debate will happen over production tax credits. However, increasingly competitive cost of wind power still bode well for its continued growth.
The amount of natural gas capacity added actually declined in 2013, from 9,331 MW to 7,270, but with the total for all energy types so much smaller, natural gas made up more than 51 percent of new generation capacity.
With such little new capacity coming online and some plants being shut down, the total installed capacity was almost unchanged in the past year (1,160.08 gigawatts in 2013 vs. 1,157.86 GW in 2012). Natural gas made up 42.8 percent of that overall capacity at the close of the year, up slightly from 42.0 percent a year earlier; wind rose slightly to 5.2 percent from 4.9; and solar nearly doubled its share, though it remained a small player at 0.64 percent of total capacity.
A note on this FERC data: It’s just one early look at the year’s Solar Surge picture, and later, sometimes more thorough analysis will be coming in over the next few months. So the data will shift, but the big picture shouldn’t.