Solar is going strong this year. It’s contributed more than a quarter of the 4350 MW of new utility-scale generating capacity that came online in the first six months of 2014. That’s according to preliminary data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Electric Power Monthly.
When you add distributed solar, the number gets much bigger. Let’s start with just utility-scale, since those are the numbers EIA focuses on.
Having added 1146 MW of utility-scale capacity, solar experienced strong year-on-year growth — with 70% more additions in the first half of 2014 than during the same period last year. In terms of actual generation, solar was also strong in the first half of the year, up 115.7% from the same period last year.
That’s in contrast to total utility-scale capacity additions, which were down 40% from the same period last year — and to natural gas, which did contribute half of the new utility-scale capacity but was still down by about 50% year-on-year. Wind additions were also strong, having more than doubled year-on-year in the first half of 2014.
Florida added the most electrical capacity of the states, at 1210 MW. This was all natural gas combined-cycle capacity. Perhaps that will change for the Sunshine State as more groups push for solar there.
California came in second in total added capacity, at just under 1100 MW. Of that, about 77% was solar and 21% was wind, with the rest being natural gas and other sources — though those other sources did not include coal, which added no capacity in the first six months of the year.
About three-quarters of the new solar capacity was added in California. Most of the rest was in Arizona, Nevada, and Massachusetts.
Although some solar and wind capacity was added in Texas, that state, like Utah, mostly added natural gas. Texas and Utah together added 1000 MW of new generating capacity.
It’s important to note that the solar data do not include solar capacity additions below 1 MW in size, typically used in distributed generation at residential and commercial sites.
As GTM Research points out, residential and commercial solar are not to be discounted. In the second quarter of 2014, those sectors accounted for nearly half of all solar installations. GTM figures show that a total of 2478 MW of solar (PV and CSP) was added in the first half of this year — a lot higher than the 1146 MW utility-scale figure. That puts solar ahead of natural gas by 159 MW.
GTM also points out that though solar still accounts for only about 0.05% of all U.S. electric generating capacity, that’s up quite a bit from 0.02% in 2008. And these numbers need to be seen in the context of the huge amounts of generation from traditional power sources.
The numbers for solar will only keep going up. Predictions from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) are for 6.5 GW of solar PV to be installed in the U.S. in 2014, adding to the 15 GW of solar (including 500,000 distributed systems) that we already have.