In different ways wind, solar led U.S. energy growth in 2012

An SNL graph depicting US energy growth in 2012A new SNL Energy report determined that both solar and wind led the U.S. energy sector in 2012. The report found that in terms of overall new installed power plants in the U.S., solar led the way in terms of new projects while wind led the way in terms of newly installed power production, besting natural gas and coal in 2012.

The report from SNL found that just under 13 gigawatts of new wind projects came online in 2012. “According to SNL Energy data, 12,953 MW of wind capacity was completed in 2012, blowing away previous records and, for the first time, accounting for more generation capacity than any other technology. This gush of wind capacity came as the industry raced to complete projects ahead of the scheduled expiration of the production tax credit at the end of 2012, which has since been extended,” said report author Rizwan Qureshi.

The American Wind Energy Association said it was even higher. “The U.S. wind energy industry had its strongest year ever in 2012, the American Wind Energy Association announced today, installing a record 13,124 megawatts of electric generating capacity, leveraging $25 billion in private investment,and achieving over 60,000 MW of cumulative wind capacity,” it said.

That outpaced natural gas with just under 10 new gigawatts of power production and coal, which had 3.8 new gigawatts of electric generation. Solar was still smaller than the rest with 1.6 megawatts of new electric generation capacity added in 2012, the report found. However, the Solar Energy Industries Association, which hasn’t released official figures for the full year of 2012, estimated that by the end of the third quarter of 2012, 2 gigawatts of new solar was installed. SEIA also anticipated that by the end of 2012 there would be significantly more solar installed, at 3.2 gigawatts. “SEIA expects that 2012 annual growth will top 70 percent over 2011,” SEIA CEO Rhone Resch said in December.

While wind took top prize in terms of overall new energy generation it came in second to solar with 136 new projects. Solar had 175 new projects in 2012, according to SNL. That figure, however, can’t account for all the residential solar installed in 2012. In all, the report found there were 430 new power projects completed in 2012, which means that solar and wind, at a combined 311 projects comprised more than 72 percent of all new electric projects in the U.S. last year. 

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