According to the latest data released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), natural gas dominated new electrical generating capacity in 2018. However, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind may be poised to swamp fossil fuels as new generating capacity is added over the next three years.
FERC’s “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through November 30, 2018) notes that new natural gas generation placed in service during the first 11 months of 2018 totaled 16,687 MW or 68.46% of the total (24,376 MW).
Renewable sources accounted for only 30.12% led by wind (3,772 MW) and solar (3,449MW). However, the same report indicates that the proposed generation and retirements by December 2021 include net capacity additions by renewable sources of 169,914 MW. That is 4.3 times greater than the net new additions listed for coal, oil, and natural gas combined (39,414 MW).
Net proposed generation additions from wind alone total 90,268 MW while those from solar are 64,066 MW — each greater than that listed for natural gas (56,881 MW). FERC lists only a single new 17-MW coal unit for the three-year period but 16,122 MW in retirements. Oil will also decline by 1,362 MW while nuclear power is depicted as remaining largely unchanged (i.e., a net increase of 69 MW).
FERC’s data also reveals that renewable sources now account for 20.8% of the total available installed U.S. generating capacity. Utility-scale solar is nearly 3% (i.e., 2.94%) while hydropower and wind account for 8.42% and 7.77% respectively.
This time last year, FERC’s Energy Infrastructure Update shoed that proposed utility-scale solar and wind generation additions were expected to equal nearly 116 GW of capacity by 2020, taking into account expected retirements.
The report said that by 2020, proposed additions would equal nearly 72.53 MW for wind and about 43.53 MW for solar. FERC uses data from Velocity Suite, ABB Inc., and The C Three Group LLC, which include plants with a nameplate capacity of 1 MW or greater.
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