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36% of Electrical Power Coming Online is From Solar or Wind

The way America uses energy can’t change overnight.

Despite the hype around renewables, it takes time, money, and new technology to build out these plants at a scale that will make a difference.

As a result, many people are still surprised that solar and wind constitute less than 2% of energy generated in the U.S. as of 2015:

Click here for a larger version of this giant diagram.
Energy consumption in the United States

Yes, oil is the big dog for now, and it will continue to be that way for the foreseeable near-term.

However, the switch to renewables is gaining momentum fast.

We noted earlier this year that solar and wind capacity grew 31% and 5% respectively between 2014 and 2015. However, the following news is even more significant, since it shows that new power coming online from renewables is happening at a scale that will make a considerable dent in the actual energy mix.

New Power Coming Online

The following infographic comes to us from Mantena Notes, and it looks at new energy capacity coming online in the territories of different United States Independent System Operators (ISOs).

First, some background: ISOs are grids in the U.S. that are deregulated, where power plants compete to provide electricity at the lowest price. This infographic looks at what is in their interconnection queues, which are essentially waiting lines for new power plants that have applied to become a part of the grid.

Renewable power coming online

It should be noted that the above additions do not technically represent the whole U.S., but it does help give an idea of what the market is moving towards and what is cost effective. The aforementioned ISOs constitute a very significant chunk of the overall market.

This is how the new power coming online breaks down:

  • 46% natural gas (127 GW)
  • 20% wind (55 GW)
  • 16% solar (44 GW)
  • 5% coal (14 GW)
  • 9% other (35 GW)

The low gas price environment makes switching to natural gas easy, and thus gas makes up the most gigawatts of new capacity coming online.

Solar and wind combine for 99 GW of upcoming capacity, which is significant by almost any measure. For comparison, the largest ever peak in California’s electricity demand occurred on July 24, 2006 for 50.3 GW.

That definitely moves the needle.

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