Renewable energy sources – including wind, solar, geothermal, water and biomass – accounted for 49.1% of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity installed in 2012, for a total of 12.956 GW, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
More than a quarter of that new capacity – 3.276 GW – entered operation in December, as wind developers, in particular, scrambled to get their projects online before the would-be production tax credit deadline.
Wind energy led the way, with 164 new units totaling 10.689 GW in new generating capacity, followed by solar, with 240 units totaling 1.476 GW; and biomass, with 100 new units totaling 543 MW. Geothermal and water each had 13 new units with installed capacities of 149 MW and 99 MW, respectively.
By comparison, new natural-gas generation entering operation totaled 8.746 GW (33.15%), followed by coal, with 4.51 GW (17.09%); nuclear, with 125 MW (0.47%); and oil, with 49 MW (0.19%).
New capacity from renewable energy sources in 2012 increased by 51.16% compared to 2011, when those sources added 8.571 GW. In 2011, renewables accounted for 39.33% of all new in-service generation capacity.
Renewable energy sources now account for 15.4% of total installed U.S. generating capacity in operation, with wind energy representing 4.97%.
"If there were still any lingering doubts about the ability of renewable energy technologies to come online quickly and in amounts sufficient to displace fossil fuels and nuclear power, the 2012 numbers have put those doubts to rest," says Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable energy technologies. "Not only has renewable energy become a major player in the U.S. electrical generation market, but it has also emerged in 2012 as the reigning champion."