US: large-scale solar generation doubled in 2014, says EIA

Data released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has revealed that utility-scale solar’s contribution to the country’s net electrical generation grew by 102% last year.

The figures from EIA’s latest Electric Power Monthly report are for large-scale PV only, and do not take into account ‘behind-the-meter’ generation, so that actual total of solar PV installed across the states in 2014 will be higher.

Nevertheless, solar was the prime driver of the non-hydro renewable sector, which increased electrical generation capacity by 11% on average in 2014, with wind growing 8.3%, biomass 5.7% and geothermal 5.4%.

Coal power, on the other hand, saw its contribution to electricity generation grow by a mere 0.3%, with nuclear increasing only slightly more, at 1% growth. Natural gas electrical generation actually fell by 0.3% in 2014, whereas net electrical generation from all energy sources increased modestly, rising by 0.7% last year when compared to 2013 figures.

The EIA calculates that renewable energy sources – including hydropower – accounted for almost 14% of net U.S. electrical generation in 2014, of which large-scale solar accounted for 0.45% (compared to hydropower at 6.32% and wind at 4.44%). Solar PV’s nationwide contribution to U.S. electrical generation is likely to be far higher, however, once power generated by off-grid and distributed (rooftop) installations are accounted for.

"Given current growth rates – especially for solar and wind – it is quite possible that renewable energy sources will reach, or exceed, 14% of the nation’s electrical supply by the end of 2015," said Ken Bossong of the SUN SAY Campaign. "That is a level that EIA, only a few years ago, was forecasting would not be achieved until the year 2040."