Utility-scale US solar capacity grew 43% in 2013

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Installed solar power capacity in the U.S. grew by 42.8% in 2013, with the country adding 2.9 GW of large-scale solar energy to the grid, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from FERC’s Office of Energy Projects.

The report also found that combined renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydropower) accounted for 37% of all electrical generating capacity in 2013, outstripping coal (which provided just 10.8%), oil and nuclear. Natural gas – boosted by a series of successful fracking initiatives – led the way, however, fuelling 51.1% of new energy capacity (7.2 GW overall).

Despite the dominance of gas, the U.S. solar industry is sure to be encouraged by FERC’s findings, which show that solar energy (from both PV and concentrated solar power installations) was the second-most popular source of power last year, and by far the fastest-growing renewable energy source, with 266 individual commercial-size installations added. It should also be noted that these figures do not include an estimated 1.6 GW of "behind the meter" sources of solar PV – such as rooftop residential installations and smaller commercial arrays.

Stretched over a two-year period from the beginning of 2012 to the end of 2013, FERC’s report also revealed that renewable energy sources accounted for 20.8 GW of new installed capacity during that period, accounting for 15.97% of total installed U.S. operating capacity.

"Renewable energy sources are leaving coal, oil, and nuclear power in the dust as new sources of electrical generating capacity while challenging natural gas’ current dominance," said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY campaign – a non-profit research and educational organization that promotes sustainable energy technologies in the U.S. "The growth of renewables is likely to accelerate as the costs for new solar and wind continue to drop, making them ever more competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear power."