Wind, Solar, Biomass Provide All New U.S. Electrical Generating Capacity In January 2013

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"Wind, Solar, Biomass Provide All New U.S. Electrical Generating Capacity In January 2013"

Wind farmBy Kenneth Bossong

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, 1,231 MW of new in-service electrical generating capacity came on line in the United States in January 2013 — all from wind, solar, and biomass sources.

This represents a nearly three-fold increase in new renewable energy generating capacity compared to the same month in 2012 when wind, solar, and biomass provided 431 MW of new capacity.

In January 2013, wind accounted for the largest share of the new capacity with six new “units” providing 958 MW followed by 16 units of solar (267 MW), and 6 units of biomass (6 MW). No new generating capacity was reported for any fossil fuel (i.e., natural gas, coal, oil) or nuclear power sources.

Renewable sources now account for 15.66 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: hydro – 8.50 percent, wind – 5.17 percent, biomass – 1.29 percent, solar – 0.38 percent, and geothermal – 0.32 percent.*

By comparison, oil accounts for 3.54% of total operating generating capacity, nuclear for 9.23 percent, coal for 29.04 percent, and natural gas for 42.37 percent.

Once again, renewable energy sources have dominated the new electrical generation market. And once again, their rapid expansion demonstrates that the U.S. can meet its future energy needs without resorting to dirtier sources such as nuclear power or the Keystone XL pipeline.

*Note: Generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the United States now totals about 13% according to data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

– SUN DAY Campaign News Release via RenewableEnergyWorld.com

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28 Responses to Wind, Solar, Biomass Provide All New U.S. Electrical Generating Capacity In January 2013

  1. Jack Roesler says:

    And we can make the whole situation better by conserving energy wherever possible. That is, having our houses, buildings, etc. fully insulated, wearing thermal underwear in the winter, using the cool night air to cool our homes in the summer, CFLs, installing high eff. furnaces and AC units, eff. appliances, etc.

  2. Superman1 says:

    Wrong metric! Our problem is not renewables deficiency, it is fossil excess. The solution is first reduce fossil, then, if allowable, replace with renewables. Otherwise, we will end up with fossil barons and renewables barons.

    • Omega Centauri says:

      At least if we followed the no new non-renewables script, we would be on a gradual weaning from fossils. Only a partial step to be sure. We have to push forward on all fronts, renewables is one front, energy efficiency is another, lifestyle change yet another. In a multifrontal conflict you have to push on all fronts simultaneously. Obviously some fighters will concentrate only on a single front. It doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate what those on the other fronts are doing.

      • Daniel Coffey says:

        By the way, I agree with what you are saying, but with the caveat that some choices will produce more results earlier, and those are the ones we should focus on earliest to achieve the most fastest.

    • Daniel Coffey says:

      Conservation sustains the status quo as much as anything. If you replace the generating source with a non-carbon energy source every kilowatt is carbon dioxide free. If you conserve, even if it as much as 20%, then 4 of every 5 kilowatts produces carbon dioxide. Replace first and fast; then we can conserve when we have the longer period that will require. We should do everything we can to replace current generating and transportation technology, not put it off for later.

      • Superman1 says:

        Daniel, Look at the global CO2 emissions trajectory. We’re not net ‘replacing’, as you put it. We’re adding both renewables and fossil, and accelerating to the edge of the cliff, assuming we haven’t gone over already.

  3. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “Wrong metric! Our problem is not renewables deficiency, it is fossil excess.”

    Actually, this is a valuable metric: it shows that renewables are scaling up very rapidly, to the point where they are actually dominating the deployment of new generating capacity.

    What this report demonstrates is that renewable energy sources are ready, NOW, to not only provide any new generating capacity that is needed, but to begin replacing fossil fuel generation. And indeed, as coal-fired power plants are being retired at record rates, in part due to the availability and ongoing rapid deployment of highly-competitive wind, solar and biomass power plants, we are already seeing reductions in the GHG emissions from electricity generation.

    Superman1 wrote: “The solution is first reduce fossil, then, if allowable, replace with renewables. Otherwise, we will end up with fossil barons and renewables barons.”

    There is no reason whatsoever why reducing fossil fuel use has to come “first” — phasing out fossil-fueled electricity generation and building wind, solar and biomass generating capacity are obviously complementary components of the solution. Indeed, it can be argued that at least the capacity to rapidly deploy large amounts of renewable generating capacity must come “first”, because it’s the ability to do so that will allow us to replace fossil-fueled power plants as they are phased out. And this report just adds to the overwhelming evidence that we have that capacity.

    And I have no problem with “renewables barons”. If people can “do well by doing good”, and can get rich by developing and deploying wind and solar technology, then I say to them, have at it! More power to them.

    There will certainly be “giant energy companies” in the renewable energy future. However, they will be technology companies, like Microsoft and Google and Intel and Samsung — not extractive industries like Exxon and Koch.

    In an energy economy based on using high technology to harvest vast amounts of abundant, ever-less-expensive, wind and solar energy, the business model of extracting and selling a dwindling supply of ever-more-costly fuel becomes obsolete.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 1 OF 7
      The central problem with climate change is: 1) the CO2 emissions are too large and are experiencing growth of a few percent a year; 2) the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is too large and is growing at a few ppm/year; the temperature increase over pre-industrial is now about 0.8 C, with no end in sight. Warm Atlantic water is pouring into the Arctic, guaranteeing that the ice will be gone in the Summer shortly. At that point, 24/7 Summer solar insolation plus warm Atlantic water will go into heating the Arctic sea.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 2 OF 7
      The recent finding of methane clathrates at 290 meters vulnerable to warm water decomposition means that if sufficient reserves are found at shallow depths, game over. Even if a modest amount of clathrates are released, that may be sufficient to accelerate the other positive feedback mechanisms out of control. The point of the above is that 2 C is not a safe temperature, or 1 C, but probably closer to 0.5 C or less, as I have shown previously. We need to get the CO2 emissions down ASAP, and decarbonize rapidly by other means as well.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 3 OF 7
      You state: “There is no reason whatsoever why reducing fossil fuel use has to come “first””. The above argument is exactly why fossil fuel reduction has to come first. Waiting to develop solar capability before reducing fossil is a recipe for disaster, assuming it hasn’t occurred already. Read e.g. Kevin Anderson’s paper to see why immediate CO2 emissions reductions are crucial for temperature control.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 4 OF 7
      You argument is based on hope, belief, and a fallacy. Yes, renewables are being implemented. However, that is of no consequence in solving the climate change problem. Fossil fuels are still being implemented, and growing. The fossil boys are selling everything they can, and scrambling to discover and extract more. Competition is not affecting them as yet. That’s the core of the problem.

      • Henry McJr says:

        This seems to me clear thinking. But energy, from whatever source, is produced to meet demand. How many times have you (or rather, your neighbors!) walked into an empty room with a light on. I bet we could reduce demand by half overnight if we could change habits.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 5 OF 7
      If the day comes that renewables begin to encroach on fossil deployment and sales, the fossil states will not roll over. They have much flexibility in setting wages, profits, and prices. There is no evidence whatsoever that renewables will replace fossil if the situation becomes competitive. If there were some evidence, or arrangement, that when a unit of renewable energy went online, a unit of fossil went offline, then I would have far less of a problem. As of now, there is zero basis in fact to believe that will happen.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 6 OF 7
      “And I have no problem with “renewables barons”.” Ah, your specialty; quoting me out of context. My full statement was “Otherwise, we will end up with fossil barons and renewables barons.” I don’t object to ‘renewables barons’, but I object to both at the same time. It’s like my saying ‘I don’t like beer and ice cream together’, and you mis-quote to ‘I don’t like beer’.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 7 OF 7
      The BP 2030 Energy Outlook, which I believe far more than the fantasies shown here, has fossil fuel growing by 30% over 2010, and renewables expanding substantially as well; fossil and renewables barons. That may be great for renewables investors, but it means ‘game over’ for the climate.

      • SecularAnimist says:

        Superman1 wrote: “The BP 2030 Energy Outlook, which I believe far more than the fantasies shown here …”

        Somehow, it does not surprise me that you “believe” a fossil fuel corporation’s propaganda more than you “believe” the actual facts about what is actually happening in the renewable energy industries today.

        • Superman1 says:

          But, the shell game you’re playing is to extrapolate from the essentially non-competitive introduction of renewables to competition with fossil, and thereby a reduction of fossil. It hasn’t happened, and there is no evidence that it will happen, except by mandate. At its core, it’s a replay of the deck officers on the Titanic raiding the pantry as she went down.

          • SecularAnimist says:

            Superman1 wrote: ” from the essentially non-competitive introduction of renewables to competition with fossil, and thereby a reduction of fossil. It hasn’t happened, and there is no evidence that it will happen …”

            Yeah, you could say that — IF you aggressively ignore everything that’s happening with renewable energy in the real world, where (for example) unsubsidized solar PV has already reached grid parity in many places, and wind power is cheaper than coal.

            With all due respect, you keep repeating these bromides and REFUSING to look at the facts (you are even ignoring the facts presented in this very CP article that you are commenting on!).

            It’s boring, really.

          • Superman1 says:

            PART 1 OF 2
            “”you keep repeating these bromides and REFUSING to look at the facts”. Here’s the facts. There are no fossil products sitting on the shelves gathering dust; the fossil companies are selling all they can for pretty much all they can get. They are prospecting for everything they can, and trying to get as many new leases for exploration that they can. They’re starting to go for the Arctic.

          • Superman1 says:

            PART 2 OF 2
            There is no lack of investors in these companies. If the companies. or their investors, had any concerns about competitiveness of renewables, they would be hedging their bets. No sign of any hedging. So, yes, renewables are being implemented, but fossil is growing as well. The need is for renewables to grow and fossil to shrink, especially the latter. There is absolutely no evidence on any front that this will occur without a government-imposed mandate.

        • Superman1 says:

          “it does not surprise me that you “believe” a fossil fuel corporation’s propaganda”. Right. It’s only based on real-world government and corporate demand projections, and real-world consumer demand trends and projections, unlike the wishes and fantasies of your renewables out-competing fossil.

          • SecularAnimist says:

            BP’s “energy outlook” is based on what BP wants to see happen to maximize their profits. It’s drill-baby-drill, burn-baby-burn propaganda that ignores everything that is actually happening with renewable energy today.

            And again, it does not surprise me in the least that that’s the “outlook” you prefer to embrace and promote.

            Pretty much all you ever do is disparage renewable energy and proclaim the situation hopeless. Over and over and over again. And when your claims are shown to be ill-informed and incorrect, you just repeat them, at greater length, and more rudely.

          • Superman1 says:

            “proclaim the situation hopeless”. Yes, and it’s hollow proposals like yours, which would bring a smile to the faces of renewables investors only, which convince me the situation is beyond hope. Your proposals do nothing for climate change, and everything for renewables investors.

  4. Sasparilla says:

    “In January 2013, wind accounted for the largest share of the new capacity with six new “units” providing 958 MW followed by 16 units of solar (267 MW), and 6 units of biomass (6 MW).”

    This is rather surprising, since the expectation was that Federal Support for Wind was going to be over after 2012 and I was expecting wind installations to end for the most part. Frankly, along with Wind taking the biggest share of new power source installations in 2012 in the U.S. (ahead of natural gas and coal) – this is just wonderful to see.

    It appears that Wind is becoming a preferred new power generation source choice for the U.S. market (we’ll need to see this through the rest of 2013 to be sure) – and, if it continues, represents a growing nightmare for new fossil fuel power generation installations as the “Market” siphons away big chunks of possible new fossil fuel power installations away to renewables because costs are getting low enough to become the preferred choice (which will become self reinforcing over time as renewable costs continue to drop). It appears we may be seeing the beginning of this transition by the market starting (much earlier than I thought would happen). Hoping we’ll see renewables lead in 2013 as well – that’d be awesome and signal a true change is occuring in the U.S. market.

    • Superman1 says:

      The only time to rejoice is when the CO2 emissions curve bends around. All the renewables installation numbers are a pure smokescreen. Our problem is excess fossil, not deficient renewables.

  5. Henry McJr says:

    Still haven’t seen a clear answer to Superman1’s point. Until we replace fossil fuels, we need to be using less total energy. If we haven’t already gone over the tipping point, prudence requires conservation, not substitution. I propose a market-based solution, though. Count the times you turn off an unneeded light or appliance; tally each week. Get your neighbors into a contest: whose house can tally most turnoffs? (Evidence this might work: my 4774 sq.ft. house uses 65% less electricity than the neighborhood according to the local power company — and did so before we got CFLs.)

    Distributed demand reduction (whence lower power bills) multiplies the effect of distributed production (wind, solar) in replacing load on the grid. If nobody wants the power, why build power plants? The project could be called “Coal Turns the Lights Off.”

    Anybody have a reaction to this? Is it Ready for Prime Time yet? Of course, we still have to find a substitute for the internal combustion engine…