Natural gas, wind, and solar power projects dominated the rankings of new U.S. electric generation placed in service in 2014.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff's December 2014 Energy Infrastructure Update, developers placed in service 15,384 megawatts of new utility-scale electric generation capacity in 2014. This new capacity buildout is within 4% of 2013's figure (15,886 megawatts).
Of 2014's new generating capacity, nearly half (7,485 megawatts, or 49%) is powered by natural gas. U.S. production of natural gas has increased significantly in recent years, and natural gas prices have decreased in most regions of the country. At the same time, new environmental regulations have made historically dominant coal relatively more expensive as a fuel source, while relatively low carbon emissions have made natural gas more attractive. 2014 thus continued the trends of coal-fired power plant retirement and the construction of new natural gas-fired generating capacity.
Wind represents the next largest category of new U.S. electric generating capacity placed in service in 2014. Nearly 27% of 2014's new capacity, or 4,080 megawatts, is powered by wind. As President Obama noted in his 2015 State of the Union address, the U.S. has more wind energy supplying its electrical grid than any other country.
Solar energy represents the third largest category of new generation placed in service last year. Over 20% of new 2014 capacity, or 3,139 megawatts, is powered by solar energy. The rapid growth of solar energy in the U.S. was also featured in President Obama's 2015 State of the Union speech, in which he noted, "Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008."
Combined, these three energy sources (natural gas, wind, and solar) account for over 95% of all new utility-scale generation capacity placed in service in 2014. Of the remaining capacity, biomass took the largest share (1.6% of total new capacity), with a diverse mix of other sources including water power, coal, and nuclear rounding out the list. Notably, renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower account for nearly half of all new capacity placed in service in 2014.
What will 2015 bring?