The U.S. added 394 megawatts of new capacity to produce electricity in November, and all of it came from renewable sources, according to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announcement on Friday.
The latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from FERC’s Office of Energy Projects now shows that energy sources such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind have now accounted for more than a third — 34.9 percent — of all new electrical generating capacity in the United States, with the majority coming from solar. As for total installed operating generating capacity, renewable sources now account for nearly 16 percent, the report said — more than nuclear (9.20 percent) and oil (4.05 percent) combined.
November is the third month this year that renewables accounted for 99 to 100 percent of new power capacity. In October, the U.S. added 699 megawatts of new capacity to produce electricity — 99 percent, or 694 MW, of which came from renewable sources. In March, solar produced 100 percent of new electrical generation capacity, with seven new units in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Hawaii, Arizona, and North Carolina.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that new installed capacity for renewable sources will continue to grow — with the U.S. adding 52.5 GW by 2040, for a total of 199.2 GW.
There is, however, a difference between capacity and actual electricity generation: capacity is the total amount of energy that can be produced, whereas generation is the total amount that is produced. Because renewables produce energy less of the time than other resources with the same amount of capacity, these two numbers can sometimes vary significantly.
Like capacity, electricity generation is still dominated by fossil fuels and likely will be for some time. The EIA predicted that generation from renewables will grow 28 percent over the next quarter-century and constitute just 16 percent of the nation’s electrical generation by 2040.
However, Bloomberg’s renewable energy research team has predicted that, throughout the world, 70 percent of new power generation will most likely be renewable from now until 2030. That would mean $630 billion in new renewable capacity investments in 2030 alone — over three times what was built in 2012, and 35 percent higher than what Bloomberg predicted for 2030 a year ago.
Even nuclear beats out renewables if hydroelectric isn’t counted, though notably no new nuclear has been added since 1996.