Report: Renewable energy accounts for majority of power grid additions

Wind and solar electricity generation are expected to account for most of the generating capacity added to the power grid in 2016, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A total of 24 gigawatts of capacity was added to the grid in 2016, and 63% of new capacity was renewable energy, marking the third consecutive year more than half of new capacity was from renewable sources, especially wind and solar. About 60% of the added renewable capacity was expected to start generating electricity in the fourth quarter of 2016. One of the reasons the capacity comes online in the quarter is because of “timing qualifications for federal, state or local tax incentives,” according to the EIA.

In March, U.S. renewable energy generation peaked “as high precipitation and melting snowpack led to a monthly peak in hydroelectric generation and strong wind resources led to a monthly peak in wind generation.” Most electricity from renewable energy sources is generated in western states, accounting for 63% of hydroelectric and 77% of solar power generated in the United States in 2016. Electricity generated from wind is spread more evenly throughout the United States with 37% happening in the Midwest, 35% in the South, 24% in the West and 4% in the Northeast.

As of October 2016, the United States had a total of 12.6 gigawatts of small-scale solar photovoltaic capacity installed. Small-scale solar photovoltaic capacity is one megawatt or less, with 56% in the residential sector, 36% in commercial and 8% in industrial. In July, small-scale solar photovoltaic generation peaked at 2.1 billion kilowatt-hours.

The following are other renewable energy highlights for 2016:

  • The production tax credit for wind and the solar investment tax credit, which were extended in 2015, will include eventual value declines, with the wind credit expiring in 2020, and in 2022, the solar credit will decline to 10%, from 30%, for large-scale projects and expire for residential projects.
  • New York, Oregon and Washington D.C. expect that 50% of each state’s total electricity generation will be from renewable energy by 2030, 2032 and 2040, respectively.
  • Hydroelectric generation rose as drought conditions on the West Coast declined.