In the latest issue of its Energy Infrastructure Update (with data through November 30, 2017), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) notes that proposed net additions to generating capacity by utility-scale wind and solar could total 115,984 megawatts (MW) by December 2020 – effectively doubling their current installed capacity of 115,520 MW.
At the same time, the FERC report suggests that coal might experience a net decline of 18,723 MW (equivalent to 6.60% of current capacity) while nuclear power drops by 2,342 MW (equivalent to 2.16% of current capacity).
The numbers were released as FERC prepares for a January 10 meeting to consider U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal for a bail out of the coal and nuclear industries.
Renewables leading the way
FERC’s data also outlines the retirement of 10,803 MW of natural gas capacity by the end of 2020 but offset by the potential addition of 92,489 MW for a net gain of 81,686 MW — an amount that would increase current natural gas capacity by 15.82%. Oil generating capacity would remain largely unchanged with retirements of 571 MW and additions of 762 MW.
Renewable sources, however, could see the largest increase in their share of the nation’s total installed generating capacity through December 2020.
Proposed additions for wind total 72,526 MW with only 68 MW of retired capacity while solar could add 43,528 MW and experience just 2 MW of retirements. Hydropower, while retiring 706 MW, would grow by 12,732 MW. Biomass might add 945 MW and retire 47 MW while geothermal could expand by 1,610 MW without any retirements. In total, proposed net generation additions for the mix of renewable sources totals 130,518 MW.
Should the proposed generation additions and retirements prove accurate, within three years, the mix of renewables would account for more than a quarter (26.57%) of the nation’s installed generating capacity – up from one-fifth (19.91%) today. Solar and wind combined would equal nearly 17 percent (16.74%) of capacity by December 2020.
“FERC’s data probably should not be interpreted as being a forecast or prediction,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Rather, it is better viewed as a confirmation of recent trends – rapid growth by solar, wind, and natural gas accompanied by more modest gains by hydropower, geothermal, and biomass while coal and nuclear power experience sharp declines.”
— Solar Builder magazine