Renewables Provide 56 Percent of New US Electrical Generating Capacity in First Half of 2014

Kenneth Bossong, SUN DAY Campaign
July 21, 2014


According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower provided 55.7 percent of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of 2014 (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed).


5 Things You Should Know About the US Utility-Scale PV Market

By Mike Munsell

July 16, 2014


GTM Research just released the Q3 2014 Utility PV Tracker briefing, a quarterly distillation of the most important findings within the U.S. utility PV market compiled by GTM Research solar analyst Cory Honeyman.

GTM Research defines the "utility PV" category as encompassing any installation in which the offtaker of the power is a utility or wholesale power market. This definition also includes any PV system installed on a non-residential customer's property that participates in a feed-in tariff program, in which the system's power is sold to a utility, and it can include projects as small as 100 kilowatts in size.

Below are five highlights from the Q3 edition of the tracker.

More than 7 gigawatts of utility-scale PV are operational in the U.S., and nearly double that amount is contracted with signed power-purchase agreements.

Source: GTM Research U.S. Utility PV Market Tracker


Approximately 1.1 gigawatts of utility PV has come on-line in the first half of the year, though GTM Research notes that final numbers will be announced in the upcoming edition of the Solar Market Insight report. First Solar developed the three largest projects completed in Q2 2014, totaling a combined capacity of 307.5 megawatts. Honeyman writes that mega-scale installations "continue to buoy growth," but notes that small-scale installations (1 megawatt to 20 megawatts) accounted for more than 20 percent of the utility PV market.

Also coming on-line throughout the first half of 2014 were large commercial projects like First Wind's 18.2-megawatt Warren solar project and SunEdison's 16.4-megawatt Davis-Monthan Air Force Base project.


Source: GTM Research U.S. Utility PV Market Tracker


Utilities are procuring PV outside of their renewable portfolio standards. In the past twelve months, utilities across the United States have signed PPAs and issued solicitations for more than 3 gigawatts of PV for reasons other than meeting their RPS requirements. Honeyman cites several reasons for the trend, but the underlying theme is that public utilities commissions are now requiring utilities to consider PV in their long-term resource plans because of solar's economic competitiveness over natural gas and its ability to hedge against volatility in natural gas pricing as coal fleets retire, as well as in light of emissions standards set forth by the EPA that require a strategic shift away from coal.

Source: GTM Research U.S. Utility PV Market Tracker


The first half of this year saw PPA pricing for new utility PV installations range between $50 to $70 per megawatt-hour. "With the federal ITC set to drop after 2016, more and more utilities stocked with renewables to meet RPS standards until then, and large backlogs of stranded PV assets in need of PPAs, developers are faced with a closing window to capture the 30 percent ITC benefits," said Honeyman. "But amidst this highly competitive landscape, developers have survived the low-price PPA environment by capitalizing on declining financing costs to eke out attractive returns."

Source: GTM Research U.S. Utility PV Market Tracker


GTM Research forecasts 3.8 gigawatts of utility PV will be installed in 2014, which represents 32 percent year-over-year growth for the U.S. solar market's largest segment.

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight report, Q1 2014


Solar’s Year of Action in the US

Vince Font, Contributing Editor 
July 09, 2014


 May 9 was a big day for the solar industry. Forget big — huge. It’s a rare occasion when the most powerful person in the world takes to the bully pulpit to sing the virtues of a particular industry, and even rarer when that praise is backed up by action and dollars. But that’s precisely the gift that advocates of the U.S. solar industry were given when President Obama announced a massive, $2 billion federal funding package in combination with executive orders and hundreds of private and public sector commitments to drive forward one of the most rapidly growing renewable energy industries in the nation.


These New Energy Maps Show 4 Neat Things About Renewables

Bobby Magill 
July 11, 2014


When the U.S. Energy Information Administration launched its new U.S. Energy Mapping System last fall and upgraded it for use on mobile devices in early June, it powered a system that allows anyone to visualize some of the reams of data the EIA compiles on all things energy-related in the country.

That mapping system has a lot to show about renewables and their spread across the continent. Here are four cool things the new energy mapping system can show you about where renewable energy is being produced and where it has the potential to be generated in the future.


1. Wind turbines are being built in places you might not expect

The wind farms in the U.S. and the wind power production potential of each state. The darker the shade of brown, the lower the wind potential. The light blue signifies higher wind potential and the dark blue signifies the highest wind potential. Credit: EIA

Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and Oklahoma have huge wind power potential -- and giant wind farms, too. Large swathes of the eastern U.S. have very low wind power potential. But because Appalachian ridge tops see high sustained winds, the EIA’s maps show the pattern of wind farms that have been built throughout the Northeast in regions that otherwise have little wind power potential.

This is especially true in Pennsylvania, where wind farms sprawl along ridge tops in regions that, at first blush, look like there is little wind potential at all. But Pennsylvania generated 2.1 million megawatt-hours of wind power in 2012, about as much as windy New Mexico, EIA data shows.

New York, another Northeast state shown on the EIA map as having little wind potential, generated even more wind power than Pennsylvania in 2012. New York produced nearly 3 million megawatt-hours of wind power in 2012, about half that of Colorado.

The maps also show large areas of the U.S. with high wind power potential going untapped, especially in South Dakota and along the Colorado Front Range near Denver. These areas are highlighted in bright blue on the map.


2. The cloudier Northeast has its share of solar power

The solar power potential of the contiguous U.S. and the sites of most of the nation's solar power generating facilities. The darker the shade of brown, the greater the solar power production potential of an area. Credit: EIA

The EIA’s map shows that many solar power plants are where you’d expect them to be -- in places like Arizona, Nevada and California where sunny skies are the defining feature of the climate. But solar power plants are also spread throughout New Jersey, New York and New England, where the solar power potential is fairly low.

Sure, some of the nation’s largest solar power plants are in Arizona and California, but the map shows that although the solar power plants in the Northeast are generally small, solar can be viable there, too.

New Jersey, for example, produced about twice as much solar power in 2012 as sunny Colorado did, and nearly a third more solar power in 2012 as Florida, where the solar power potential is significantly greater than anywhere in the Northeast. EIA data shows that New Jersey produced 304,000 megawatt-hours of solar power that year, while Florida produced 194,000 megawatt-hours and Colorado produced 165,000.


3. Biomass power production is all over, but mainly in the East and Midwest

The biomass power production potential and biomass power plants scattered across the Lower 48 states. The darker the shade of green, the greater the biomass power production potential. Biomass power plants can be anything from solid waste incinerators to landfills generating power from burning methane emissions. Credit: EIA

Biomass energy comes from many different sources, primarily the burning of wood and wood products and capturing and burning landfill gas and other waste gases. Nationally, more than 57 million megawatt-hours of electricity were produced from biomass sources in 2012, with Florida and California producing the most biomass energy.

But the EIA maps show that most facilities producing biomass electricity are concentrated in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and South, especially around Miami, Chicago, Detroit and New York City.

The power plants shown on the EIA map use a wide range of fuel sources to produce electricity. For example, The 60-megawatt Covanta Essex resource recovery plant in Essex County, New Jersey produces electricity by burning more than 2,800 tons of municipal solid waste each day. An irrigation district in Turlock, Calif., burns methane produced from the treatment of wastewater to generate 1.2 megawatts of electricity.


4. The U.S. has great geothermal potential -- most of which is untapped

The geothermal power production potential across the country and the sites of current geothermal power plants in the U.S. The darker the shade of brown, the higher the geothermal power production potential of the area. Credit: EIA

Nevada, California, Utah, New Mexico, and western Colorado are all places with large geothermal resources (heat from places where molten rock comes relatively close to the earth’s surface). But nationwide, there are only a handful of geothermal power plants, which in 2012 produced about 15.5 million megawatt-hours of electricity, mostly in California, where geothermal accounts for roughly 5 percent of the state’s power generation, according to EIA data.

Geothermal power generation development has been slow, according to EIA data, mainly because of the cost and risk involved in building new geothermal power plants, which can take up to eight years longer to complete than wind and solar power generating facilities.


Renewables Provide 88 Percent of New US Electrical Generating Capacity in May 2014

Kenneth Bossong, SUN DAY Campaign
June 23, 2014


According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower provided 88.2 percent of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity for the month of May. Two new "units" of wind provided 203 MW, five units of solar provided 156 MW, 1 unit of biomass provided 5 MW, and 1 unit of hydropower provided 0.2 MW.