The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the December Energy Infrastructure Update – it includes a summation of the annual utility scale (1MW in size or greater) installations of electricity generation hardware. The report showed 26GW+ of power plants installed – 15GW of that being wind+solar and 1.2GW nuclear power. In addition to utility scale solar power is somewhere between 4.8GW to 6.8GW’ish of private and business solar power. When accounting for each technology’s capacity factor – it turns out that roughly 65% of electricity generated from these installations will be clean and most of this hardware will run for decades.
2016 was a very big year for renewable energy – symbolically,
- Solar power prices have fallen lower and faster than anyone thought credible
- Offshore wind came to the USA and made a big mark in Europe
- Almost nine-in-ten U.S. adults (89%) favor expanding use of solar power
More importantly than symbolism is actual work getting done. China installed 34GW of solar power – seriously the global total in 2010 was 40GW. Speaking globally – install volume will likely grow 50% to 75GW. That 75GW will grow the cumulative global volume by greater than 30% to ~330GW – a the cumulative volume has doubled in a bit over three years. 2017 volume is expected to be about 75GW again – the 2016 leaps in China and the United States aren’t expected to occur again, however, India is expected to start an heavy upward swing and many other countries are getting into the mood. By 2018-2019, we should see the results of very low prices leading to broad global growth.
If the US does end up installing 14-15GW of solar power, it will about double the 2015 volume. This is a year in which we saw solar power employment grow 25%, the Department of Energy celebrate Sunshot reaching 90% of its 2020 goal of $0.06/kWh, and the general public continuing to support solar power in a contentious political atmosphere.
The pre-amble above had a purpose of prepping you for the US installing 77% new capacity of clean energy, and 65% of actual output (though that actual out number might increase as natural gas resources are being utilized less). There were other types of energy installed – about 2-3% of the total number in the image shown below. The USA, whose energy emissions have fallen 12% since 2005, is probably going to show a strong reduction in total CO2 in 2017 as this volume gets a chance to run for a year – combined with the many, many coal generation units being retired. Nuclear plants closing will eat large chunks of those forward steps.