New U.S. Large-Scale Solar Shines and Wind Capacity Soars

By Solar Industry Magazine


Solar additions to U.S. large-scale generating capacity were up by near 70 percent in the first half of the year over the same period last year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

While large-scale capacity additions in the first half of the year were 40 percent less than the capacity additions in the same period last year, the EIA reports that renewables capacity has soared. In addition to the aforementioned solar additions, the EIA reports that wind capacity in the first half of the year was more than double the level in the first half of 2013. Natural gas additions were down by about half.

A total of 4.35 GW of new large-scale generating capacity has come online during the first six months of the year, the EIA says. Natural gas plants, almost all combined-cycle plants*, made up more than half the additions, while solar panels contributed more than a quarter and wind plants around one-sixth.

Source: U.S. EIA

Solar additions amounted to 1,146 MW, the EIA says. About three-quarters of this solar capacity was located in California, including the Topaz and Desert Sunlight Phase 1 and 2 photovoltaic plants and the Genesis solar thermal plant. Arizona, Nevada and Massachusetts made up most of the rest.

The EIA utility-scale report does not include solar capacity additions below 1 MW that are typically used in distributed power applications at residential and commercial sites.

Wind additions in the first half of the year amounted to 675 MW as compared with 329 MW added over the same period last year. Most of the additional wind capacity was concentrated in California, Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota. California’s 228 MW of capacity additions came from the Alta Wind X and Alta Wind XI phases of the Alta Wind Energy Center.

Of the states, Florida added the most capacity with 1,210 MW – all of which came from natural gas combined-cycle plants. California came in second with just under 1,100 added, of which about 77 percent was solar and 21 percent was wind, with the remaining additions from natural gas and other sources. Utah and Texas combined for about 1,100 MW, nearly all of it natural gas combined-cycle capacity with some added solar and wind capacity in Texas.

Source: U.S. EIA

*A combined-cycle power plant uses both a gas and a steam turbine together to produce up to 50 percent more electricity from the same fuel than a traditional simple-cycle plant. The waste heat from the gas turbine is routed to the nearby steam turbine, which generates extra power.

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