Solar still leads US charge

Five new solar installations provided 156 MW of new electrical generating capacity in the U.S. in May as renewables supplied 88% of the nation’s new capacity during the month, according to figures from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, released today.

The Energy Infrastructure Update issued by the commission’s Office of Energy Projects said solar was the second biggest contributor among renewables generation projects in May – and the biggest in the first five months of 2014 – as two new wind farms added 203 MW of U.S generation capacity during the month.

A 5 MW biomass plant and 200 kW hydro scheme completed the renewable contribution to the U.S. grid in May as two natural gas schemes added a further 49 MW of capacity.

With renewables having supplied 47.83% of new electrical generation in the U.S. since the start of 2012, the share of clean energy is rising with non-fossil fuel generation accounting for 54% of new capacity from January to the end of May.

Of that 54% share, solar projects supplied 907 MW, ahead of wind (with 678 MW of new capacity), biomass (73 MW), geothermal steam (32 MW) and water (8 MW).

Natural gas still a big player

The lion’s share of the fossil fuel generation balance during the five-month period came from natural gas, which supplied 1.43 GW of new capacity, according to the government figures. Oil and ‘other’ fossil fuel projects added only 1 MW each of new capacity to the end of May.

Since the start of 2012, natural gas has accounted for 38.34% of new electrical generation capacity in the States, with coal adding up to 13.04% against a backdrop of new legislation concerning emissions from coal-fired plants under the Environmental Protection Agency scheme introduced by President Barack Obama through the Clean Air Act.

The scale of the challenge facing solar in America, though, is illustrated by the total cumulative balance of U.S. electrical generation capacity.

According to the Office of Energy Projects’ figures, nuclear supplies 9.24% of the nation’s electricity, ahead of hydro (8.57%) and wind (5.26%). Oil accounts for 4.03% of the mix with biomass supplying 1.37%, ahead of solar (0.75%) and geothermal steam (0.33%).