A groundbreaking 98 percent of new power generation in the US in January and February came from solar and wind power, according to the most recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) report. In the first two months of 2018, 565 Megawatts of solar power and 1,568 MW of wind came online, as well only 40 MW of natural gas capacity. The report was covered earlier this week by Think Progress.
The boost in renewable energy comes despite policies from the Trump Administration that have promoted fossil fuels. According to FERC’s “Energy Infrastructure Update,” many of the new renewable energy projects were based in states that voted for Trump in the 2016 elections, including the Beaver Creek Wind and Prairie Wind projects in Iowa totaling 338 MW together, and the Stuttgart Solar Project in Arkansas, providing a total of 81 MW.
The news comes as renewable energy prices have dropped to finally become competitive with traditional energy sources like fossil fuels, and the report forecasts continued growth in the renewable energy sector over the next three years – as well as continued closings of coal plants.
Renewables make up 147,000 MW of the 212,000 MW of new net power capacity proposed by March 2021 – about 69 percent.
In the same time period, FERC reports that 70 coal power units are slated to close, with only 5 new units to be added, which means net goal generation will fall over 15,000 MW.
As of March, the cost of new solar power had fallen 20 percent in the previous year, with onshore wind prices falling 12 percent, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Perhaps even more crucially, prices of the lithium-ion batteries necessary for storing that energy have dropped 79 percent.
The BNEF report showed that global prices will continue to fall until at least 2040, with renewables becoming cheaper than coal and gas within the next five years.
According to BNEF head of energy economics Elena Giannakopoulou:
“Some existing coal and gas power stations, with sunk capital costs, will continue to have a role for many years, doing a combination of bulk generation and balancing. But the economic case for building new coal and gas capacity is crumbling.”