Most New U.S. Electricity Capacity in 2017 was Renewable; Coal Dying

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington D.C., United States (4E) – Solar and wind power represented 94.7 percent of the United States’ net new electricity capacity added in 2017, a startling statistic made possible by the decline in the growth of fossil fuel power sources such as coal.

This renewable energy capacity amounted to 15.8 gigawatts out of the total 16.7 GW in total new electricity capacity. The report by the Rhodium Group and the Energy Information Administration revealed that fossil fuel plant closures removed 11.8 GW of utility-scale fossil fuel power from the grid.

It said solar and wind power had an outstanding year in 2016 with both accounting for 16.7 GW in new utility capacity. In particular, solar power set a record for new installations. Solar and wind electricity exceeded a combined 10 percent of electricity use for the first time in March.

Carbon dioxide emissions dropped one percent in 2017, which is far lower than average of 1.6 percent between 2005 and 2016. EIA expects emissions to increase in 2018 with the Trump’s administration’s push to revive the coal mining industry.

In 2017, the United States’ total electricity generating infrastructure had a capacity of some 28.5 GW. Of this total, 25 GW of it utility-scale and about 3.5 GW of distributed (less than 1 MW) solar power. Wind and solar were 55.4% of the 28.5 GW overall total, and about 49.2% of the utility-scale total (less than 1MW).

The report said 2016 was an amazing year for clean energy construction in the U.S. Of the country’s 27 GW of utility-scale capacity, 62% was renewables, or 16.7GW. Broken down, this came to 7.8 GW from wind and 7.7 GW of solar power.

The utility-scale renewable volume in 2016 was 35% higher than 2017. The year 2016 was a record year for utility-scale solar power installations.

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