Renewable Electricity Continues to Rise
Utility-scale renewable electricity generation grew by 23 percent between 2009 and 2012, led by wind and solar as renewables became a bigger part of the U.S. generation.
“Wind comprised the majority of the net generation increase supplied by renewables, adding 74%, or 66,717 GWh, of the increase, while solar saw tremendous percentage growth over the period,” according to an analysis by SNL Energy. The total increase equaled 90,329 Gigawatts.
Renewable generation capacity – including hydropower, biomass, geothermal, wind and solar – has grown from 9 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2012 to 16 percent of all generating capacity last year, according to federal Energy Information Agency figures.
The SNL analysis is in line with numbers coming for a variety of sources – the United Stated Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – but provides some additional insights.
“Utility-scale solar then took the top spot in capacity growth for 2010, with a 33% year-over-year increase and has only accelerated through 2012,” the SNL analysis notes. “Barring other circumstances, the future of solar capacity additions over the next three years could be bright.”
In the overall scheme biomass and hydro have been two of the biggest contributors to renewable power generation, representing 53 percent and 8 percent respectively. The SNL figures, however, show that since 2008 operating capacity has barely grown with hydro adding 1.2 percent to its capacity and biomass adding a little less than 8 percent.
As the portion of renewable energy generation grows integrating the renewables into the grid and dealing with their intermittent nature (solar produces electricity when the sun shines, wind when the wind blows) is becoming “a central issue,” SNL said. Even hydro has a peak spring-summer window.
Geothermal and biomass are the only renewable generation sources provide consistent baseload power, the analysis notes.