In November, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent statistical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy, released its “Electric Power Annual,” with statistics on the electric power industry from 2009, with topics such as generation and capacity. The report details a wide range of energy sources — from coal and natural gas to nuclear and renewable sources. Below is a snapshot of the EIA’s findings in regards to renewable energy:
Wind power has been the fastest-growing source of new electric power generation for several years. In 2009, generation from wind power increased 33.5 percent over 2008, bringing the share of total generation to 1.9 percent. This followed year-over-year generation gains of 60.7 percent in 2008, 29.6 percent in 2007 and 49.3 percent in 2006 (Figure ES 1). Wind capacity in 2009 totaled 34,296 megawatts (MW), as compared to 24,651 MW in 2008.
In 2009 and 2010, wind generators were eligible for federal production and investment tax credits or a cash grant in lieu of those tax credits. Since passage of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPACT2005), interest-free financing via Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) has been available to government entities investing in wind. Section 9006, under Title IX of the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, also contains grant and loan guarantee provisions for wind projects for farmers, ranchers and other rural businesses.
Renewable generation is fostered by both federal incentives and state renewable portfolio standards. As of October 2010, 29 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have legislated renewable energy portfolio standards and seven more states have adopted renewable portfolio goals.
Total non-hydro renewable generation increased 14 percent in 2009, following a 19.9 percent increase in 2008. The fastest-growing component was wind power (33.5-percent increase). Solar generation increased 3.1 percent. Since 1998, generation from non-hydro renewables has increased 86.6 percent.
In 2009, renewable generation made up 10.6 percent of total generation. The largest three contributors were hydro (6.9 percent), wind (1.9 percent), followed by wood and wood-derived fuels (0.9 percent). Discounting the hydro portion, renewable generation made up 3.6 percent of total generation.
Wind capacity additions accounted for 63.3 percent of all capacity gains in 2009, increasing the amount of installed wind capacity by 39.1 percent. With 34.3 gigawatts (GW) of total capacity, wind now accounts for 3.3 percent of total U.S. capacity, up from less than three-tenths of a percent 10 years earlier. Four states accounted for 51 percent of total U.S. wind capacity: Texas (9.4 GW), Iowa (3.4 GW), California (2.7 GW) and Washington (2 GW).
Solar power is a rapidly growing source of new capacity, albeit from a relatively small base. Solar power producers added 83 MW of capacity in 2009, a 15.5-percent increase over 2008. California, with 450 MW of existing (utility-scale) solar capacity, accounted for 72.8 percent of total capacity, followed by Nevada with 14.3 percent of capacity. Two large plants were brought on line in 2009: Florida Power and Light’s 25-MW DeSoto Solar Energy Plant in Florida, described as the largest photovoltaic solar plant in the world (at the time), and NRG Energy’s 21-MW facility in Blythe, Calif., which was constructed in just three months.
The 20-MW scale of recent solar power plant additions far exceeds the average size of the current fleet of solar units, but is in turn dwarfed by the scale of units in the planning stage. For example, by 2013, BrightSource Energy is scheduled to bring on line all three units of its 390-MW Ivanpah concentrated thermal power plant in California.
Capacity plans are constantly evolving as electric power producers navigate a dynamic, rapidly changing market. Each year, the EIA asks electric power producers for a snapshot of their plans as of the end of the previous year. The information below represents capacity plans as of Dec. 31, 2009, as reported to EIA during the spring of 2010.
For the period 2010-2014, planned wind additions totaled 11,560 MW, or 16 percent of total reported planned additions. Wind plants have a much shorter planning horizon and are built more quickly than fossil fuel-fired plants; only 6.2 percent of the reported new wind capacity additions were planned to occur after 2012.
Solar additions were expected to add 4,087 MW of capacity by 2014. The planned completion of Watts Bar 2 in 2012 would add 1,122 MW of nuclear capacity. The construction of new coal plants has been discouraged by increasing costs for capital-intensive projects, concerns over possible future CO2 and other environmental restrictions, and the prospect that natural gas prices will remain low over the long-term.
For more information about the Energy Information Administration, visit www.eia.doe.gov.
Source: Energy Information Administration