MID-YEAR REPORT: 70% of New U.S. Generating Capacity in First Half 2015 is From Renewables

In yet another clear indication of the nation’s energy future, renewable sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for nearly 70% (69.75%) of new electrical generation placed in service in the United States during the first six months of 2015.

According to the recently-released “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, 18 new “units” of wind accounted for 1,969 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity – or more than half (50.64%) of all new capacity year-to-date. Among renewable sources, solar followed with 549 MW (71 units), biomass with 128 MW (7 units), geothermal steam with 45 MW (1 unit), and hydropower with 21 MW (1 unit). Twenty-one units of natural gas contributed 1,173 MW.

FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from oil or nuclear power and just 3 MW from one unit of coal. Thus, new capacity from renewable energy sources during the first half of 2015 is 904 times greater than that from coal and more than double that from natural gas.

For the month of June alone, wind (320 MW), biomass (95 MW), and solar (62 MW) provided 97% of new capacity with natural gas providing the balance (15 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.27% of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.61%, wind – 5.84%, biomass – 1.40%, solar – 1.08%, and geothermal steam – 0.34%(for comparison, renewables were 16.28% of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.20%) and oil (3.87%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.96% in mid-2013 to 26.83% today.  *

With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date. The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’.

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its most recent 5-page “Energy Infrastructure Update,” with data through June 30, 2015, on July 21, 2015. See the tables titled “New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion)” and “Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity” at:  http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2015/june-infrastructure.pdf.

* Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Electrical production per MW of available capacity (i.e., capacity factor) for renewables is often lower than that for fossil fuels and nuclear power. According to the most recent data (i.e., as of April 2015) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources now totals about 14.6% of total U.S. electrical production (see: http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly); however, this figure almost certainly understates renewables’ actual contribution significantly because neither EIA nor FERC fully accounts for all electricity generated by distributed renewable energy sources (e.g., uncounted rooftop solar now provides about 45% of U.S. solar capacity).


The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1992 to aggressively promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

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