U.S. data through the midpoint of the year [PDF] shows new electricity generating capacity for utility-scale wind power down significantly from last year and solar power muddling along at about the same pace it had in 2012. Fossil fuels – coal and natural gas – make up the vast bulk of the new service so far in 2013.
The 2013 wind trend is in line with the modest expectations that were widespread after 2012’s boom in development, which in its intensity was the result of fears that the production tax credit would go away. A lot of companies hurriedly turned what would have been 2013 projects into 2012 projects, leaving the cupboard bare now.
And on solar, it’s always important to note that much of the new capacity going in doesn’t get counted in these reports from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, because it’s distributed power on the roofs of homes and businesses. All signs point to continued fast growth there.
Still, the numbers provide a reminder that the U.S. energy infrastructure isn’t undergoing dramatic change. Incremental, yes. In the direction climate-change scientists would say is necessary, yes. But 75 percent of the 8,601 megawatts of new generating capacity that FERC reported coming online from January 1 through June 30 this year came from coal (1,579 MW) and gas (4,852 MW). Given that, you’d be crazy to say we’re seeing a revolution unfold.
Last year at this time, wind had added 2,766 MW compared to 959 MW in the first six months this year. That’s a gap that will only grow as the year inches on; the industry is slowly getting back on track, but the second half of last year saw development occur at a blistering pace, with more than 10,000 additional megawatts going online.
Solar is doing better, with 944 MW of new generating capacity this year compared to 944 MW at the same point in 2012.