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In 2015 alone, installed wind capacity increased by more than 12% (8,100 megawatts), accounting for more than half of all new renewable capacity additions in the United States. | Photo credit: Warren Gretz/NREL
The numbers are in and the verdict is clear: clean energy is on the rise, both at home and around the world.
Last week, one of the Department of Energy’s national labs, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, released the 2015 Renewable Energy Data Book. This annual publication illustrates the rapid progress that the United States and globe has seen on a variety of energy metrics over the past year – including electricity generation, investments, and technology-specific data.
There’s a lot in this year’s Data Book to be excited about. Let’s take a look at four charts that tell the story of the clean energy revolution and why we need to continue our investments to ensure America leads the way to the stronger economy, jobs and cleaner future that these technologies can bring.
1. America’s Diverse Renewable Portfolio Continues to Grow
Our country is blessed with a diverse array of high quality renewable energy resources. The deployment of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and biomass technologies continue to increase. In fact, renewable technologies accounted for 64% of all new electricity generating capacity constructed in the U.S. in 2015.
2. The Clean Energy Revolution Continues to March Forward
Affirming the findings of the Energy Department’s recent Revolution…Now report on cost reductions and deployment of renewable technologies, the Data Book illustrates that long-term investment by the federal government and industry have led to accelerated renewable energy deployment. As one example, cumulative renewable energy capacity has grown from roughly 90,000 megawatts (MW) in 2000 to more than 194,000 MW in 2015 – a more than 115% increase!
Overall, renewable energy capacity now produces 14% of all domestic electricity. In 2015 alone, installed wind capacity increased by more than 12% (8,100 MW), accounting for more than half of all new renewable capacity additions. As Revolution…Now points out, this deployment is made possible by technology cost reductions that enable wind developers to sell their electricity at lower prices. With help from federal tax credits, the power purchase agreement price for wind has fallen from roughly 7 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2009 to an average of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour in some regions of the country today.
Solar capacity increased by 36% (5,600 MW), accounting for roughly 40% of all renewable projects completed in 2015. Revolution…Now illustrates that since 2008, the cost of utility-scale solar projects has decreased by 64% and the cost of distributed rooftop solar has decreased by 54%. The dramatic cost reductions continue to drive the deployment of solar technologies in the United States and around the globe.
3. Multiple Regions in the U.S. are Leading the Way on Renewable Installations
The Midwest is experiencing a true wind energy boom. Of the five states with the highest cumulative wind capacity, four of them are located in the Midwest.
- Texas: 17,711 MW
- Iowa: 6,209 MW
- Oklahoma: 5,184 MW
- Illinois: 3,842 MW
Adding to the impressive amount of wind capacity already deployed, just last year Texas installed more than 3,600 MW of new wind capacity, followed by Oklahoma which installed 1,400 MW.
Not surprisingly, the Southwest continues to be a hotbed for solar energy deployment. California and Arizona have the most cumulative photovoltaic solar capacity installed, totaling 11,987 MW and 2,020 MW, respectively. But solar deployment is also accelerating into other parts of the country as well.
Last year, five of the top 10 states for solar photovoltaic additions were on the East Coast, with North Carolina in second place nationally with the addition of 1,160 MW. North Carolina and New Jersey now have the third- and fourth-largest cumulative installed solar capacity at 2,087 MW and 1,632 MW, respectively.
Other regions are experiencing their own renewable energy breakthroughs as well. The Northwest continues to be a leader in hydropower deployment and innovation. Geothermal technologies are being steadily deployed in states around the Rocky Mountains, while the Southeast continues to install cutting-edge renewable biomass technologies.
4. Investment in Renewable Energy Continues to Increase
Globally, investment in clean energy in 2015 grew by more than 4%, totaling $329 billion. In the United States, clean energy investment grew by 10%, totaling $45 billion in 2015. It’s clear that the market for clean energy is poised to grow in the years ahead.
As this year’s Data Book illustrates, the clean energy revolution continues to expand in the U.S. and around the world. Innovation breakthroughs take time to take hold – especially in the energy space. But it’s clear that investments in clean energy pay off in the long run and foster a stronger economy, more jobs and a cleaner future. Now, we need to keep up the pace of innovation to ensure that the U.S. leads the way in the global clean energy race.