Setting a new lopsided quarterly record, U.S. renewable sources (i.e., wind, solar, biomass and hydropower) outpaced – in fact, swamped – natural gas by a factor of more than 70:1 for new electrical generating capacity placed in service during the first quarter of this year, according to a report from nonprofit SUN DAY Campaign.
Citing data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) latest Energy Infrastructure Update, the report says nine new “units” of wind provided 707 MW in the first quarter, followed by 44 units of solar (522 MW), nine units of biomass (33 MW) and one unit of hydropower (29 MW). By comparison, only two new units of natural gas, totaling 18 MW, came online during the period. There was no new capacity reported for the quarter from coal, oil, nuclear power or geothermal steam.
Furthermore, the report says solar (75 MW), wind (72 MW) and biomass (33 MW) accounted for 100% of new generating capacity reported by FERC for just the month of March. Solar and wind were the only sources of new capacity in January, as well.
The report says renewable energy sources now account for 18.11% of total available installed generating capacity in the U.S.: hydro – 8.58%, wind – 6.39%, biomass – 1.43%, solar – 1.38%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. For perspective, when FERC issued its very first Energy Infrastructure Update in December 2010, renewable sources accounted for just 13.71%, the report notes.
Moreover, the share of total available installed generating capacity now provided by non-hydro renewables (9.53%) not only exceeds that of conventional hydropower (8.58%) but is also greater than that from either nuclear power (9.17%) or oil (3.83%).
“While often touted as being a ‘bridge fuel,’ natural gas is increasingly becoming an unnecessary bridge to nowhere,” comments Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “As renewables continue to rapidly expand their share of the nation’s electrical generation, it’s becoming clear that natural gas will eventually join coal, oil and nuclear power as fuels of the past.”