We hear a lot from the optimists about how renewable energy is experiencing skyrocketing growth and should displace fossil fuels in no time. Then there are the naysayers who insist solar, wind and other forms of clean energy will never provide the power America needs. The truth is somewhere in between. One fact cannot be disputed however: All new energy capacity generated last month in the U.S. was 100 percent due to renewables.
According to the latest report issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, 405 megawatts of new installed capacity was added to America’s grid: 379 MW from wind, 21 MW from solar and 5 MW from hydropower.
While those statistics for July may seem to be a fluke, the outlook for renewable energy growth in the U.S. is positive overall. And the bulk of new capacity generated this year is clean energy, or at least, cleaner energy. Renewables have accounted for 54 percent of new energy capacity in the U.S. since the beginning of this year. Even the natural gas boom has not competed with the likes of solar, wind and other forms of renewables; natural gas has accounted for 46 percent of that growth in capacity nationwide since Jan. 1. Meanwhile, no new coal or nuclear projects have launched during the first seven months of 2014.
When you look at the country’s current total operating capacity, however, reality still hits. Natural gas is still the preferred means of energy generation with 42 percent of the nation’s capacity; despite the “war on coal,” 28 percent of the country’s power comes from this source; renewables come in at a smidge under 16 percent. Solar still only provides less than 1 percent to the nation’s grid.
Nevertheless, the trend towards a more diverse, and cleaner, energy portfolio continues. As FERC’s most recent report showcases, several notable renewable energy projects have been green-lighted: E.ON’s 218 MW wind project in the Texas Panhandle; another Texas wind farm generating 161 MW of power in Oldham County; Ikea’s 2.4 MW solar project in Maryland; and the 9 MW Indy Motor Speedway solar farm are just a few of the marquee clean energy projects that are incrementally boosting U.S. capacity in renewables.
Despite political inertia, infrastructure challenges and the influence energy companies have on American policy, change is underway — much of it due to companies that realize safe and clean energy is as much about long-term savings as it is about ensuring the planet’s future.
Image credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway