The EIA expects that 24 GW of generating capacity was added to the power grid during 2016 and that, for the third consecutive year, more than half of these additions come mostly from renewable energy, especially wind and solar.
Of the 2016 renewable additions, nearly 60% were scheduled to come online during the fourth quarter when additions are usually high because of timing qualifications for federal, state, or local tax incentives.
Monthly U.S. renewable electricity generation peaked in March with high hydroelectric and wind generation.
Most renewable generation comes from the Western U.S., which accounted for the majority of the hydroelectric (63%) and solar (77%) generation in 2016. Wind generation was more evenly spread across the country with 37% occurring in the Midwest, 35% in the South, 24% in the West, and the remaining 4% in the Northeast.
At the end of 2015, EIA also began publishing monthly estimates for distributed small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity and generation. As of October 2016, the United States had a total of 12.6 GW of small-scale solar PV installed. Of this capacity, 56% was in the residential sector, 36% in the commercial sector, and 8% in the industrial sector.
Because wind and solar facilities generate power only to the extent their respective resources are available, their capacity factors (ratio of its actual output over a period of time to its potential output if operated at full capacity continuously over the same period) are typically lower than those of other resources.
Other renewable electricity highlights in 2016:
The production tax credit (PTC) for wind and the solar investment tax credit (ITC) were extended at the end of 2015 with bipartisan support. The tax credits include an eventual decline in value for both technologies with the PTC for wind expiring in 2020 and the ITC for large-scale solar declining from 30% to a permanent 10% and expiring for residential projects in 2022.
New York, Oregon, and the District of Columbia extended and expanded their mandates for renewable electric generation to reach 50% of each state’s total electricity generation by 2030, 2032, and 2040, respectively.
Hydroelectric generation increased as drought conditions that affected hydroelectric generation on the West Coast in 2014 and 2015 diminished.