Continuing to defy projections, wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources have set a series of records for domestic electrical generation during the first half of 2016, says the new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
According to the “Electric Power Monthly” report containing data for the first six months of 2016, net U.S. electrical generation from non-hydro utility-scale renewables (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) increased by 17.0 percent compared to the first half of 2015.
Output from conventional hydropower also rose by 11.8 percent. Combined, generation from all utility-scale renewable sources increased by 14.5 percent in January-June 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.
Further, utility-scale electrical generation from renewable sources hit an all-time high of nearly 17 percent (16.55 percent) of total domestic generation. During the first half of 2015, renewable energy’s share of net generation was only 14.09 percent.
Electrical generation by utility-scale wind rose 23.5 percent and set a new six-month record of 5.96 percent of total generation. In the first half of 2015, wind power’s share was only 4.70 percent. EIA data does not include additional generation provided by distributed small-scale wind resources.
Similarly, electrical generation from utility-scale solar thermal and photovoltaics grew by 30.3 percent to 16,906 thousand megawatt-hours and comprised 0.87 percent of total utility-scale electrical output. However, EIA also estimates that distributed solar photovoltaics (e.g., rooftop solar systems) expanded by 34.3 percent and accounted for an additional 7,845 thousand megawatt-hours.
Combined, utility-scale and distributed solar accounted for over one percent (1.26 percent) of generation. A year ago, solar’s share was only 0.94 percent.
Together, wind and solar (including distributed solar) grew by almost 25 percent (24.8 percent) during the first six months of 2016 compared to the first half of 2015 and are now providing almost as much electrical generation as conventional hydropower (140,972 vs. 151,064 thousand megawatt-hours), the report said.
Among renewable energy sources, only biomass and geothermal experienced declines of 3.0 percent and 1.6 percent respectively.
In stark contrast to the stunning growth rate of renewable sources, coal-generated electricity plummeted by 20.1 percent and nuclear power remained essentially stagnant – registering growth of only 1.0 percent. Electrical generation fueled by natural gas was up by 7.7 percent.
“Renewable energy’s share of net electrical generation for the balance of 2016 may dip a little because electrical output from wind and hydropower sources tends to be highest during the first six months of each year,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Nonetheless, the data thus far is swamping EIA’s earlier forecast of just 9.5 percent growth by renewables in 2016.”