US: Solar hits over 1% of utility-scale generating capacity

Renewables in the U.S. continues to dominate new utility-scale generating capacity being added to the grid. FERC’s Office of Energy Projects on Friday reported that more than half of the new capacity added to the grid was wind, with 647 MW, followed by solar with 214 MW, geothermal 45 MW and hydropower 21 MW. Five natural gas units rounded out the capacity added for the month.

It is important to note that FERC only tracks utility scale PV and not distributed generation installations and as such, it is probably that considerably more than 214 MW in new PV capacity was added to the grid for Q1, in the form of commercial and residential PV arrays.

The 214 MW reported by FERC for the quarter was distributed across 30 different sites. Q1 2015 market a significant watershed for PV power plants in the U.S., according to the FERC figures, with solar capacity now accounting for more than 1% of the country’s generating capacity. FERC has large-scale solar capacity at 12.12 GW, at the end of the quarter.

"The trend lines for the past several years have been consistent and unmistakable," noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "Each month, renewable energy sources – particularly wind and solar – increase their share of the nation’s generating capacity while those of coal, oil, and nuclear decline."

Renewable energy now accounts for almost 17% of large-scale generating capacity currently active in the U.S. That includes hydro 8.53%, wind 5.65%, biomass 1.38 MW, solar 1.03% and geothermal 0.33%. The 17% renewable total is now greater than nuclear 9.11% and oil 3.92% combined.

GTM Research tracks that there is more than 20 GW of solar PV currently installed in the U.S.