A report released this week by federal energy regulators documents the composition of additions to the U.S.'s portfolio of electricity resources. The May 2012 Energy Infrastructure Update released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects provides a summary of newly-built and expanded electric generation facilities. This snapshot of what happened in May 2012 illustrates trends in the electric industry, including a focus on renewable energy and natural gas in project development.
According to the report, 561 megawatts of new or expanded electric generation capacity came online in May 2012. Of this new installed capacity, the largest share -- 228 MW -- came from wind. Most of this new capacity comes from a single project, E.ON Climate & Renewables North America, LLC’s Magic Valley Wind Farm I in Texas. The Magic Valley I project is comprised of 112 Vestas V100 1.8-MW turbines, for a total nameplate capacity of 202 MW.
The second-largest resource class of new generation capacity in May 2012 comes from biomass, with 166 MW of new biomass capacity installed in May. As with wind, Texas hosts the bulk of this new capacity. The largest new biomass project is a 100 MW wood-fired plant built in Nacogdoches County, Texas, by Southern Company, financed in part through a long-term power purchase agreement with Austin Energy to buy the power.
Solar-powered generation provides the third-largest class of capacity newly installed in May 2012. Eleven new projects came online in May, totaling 149 MW of new capacity. The largest of these is Enbridge Inc.’s 50 MW Silver State North Solar Project. This project, located in Clark County, Nevada, is the first utility-scale solar facility built on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Its output will be sold to NV Energy under a long-term PPA.
Together, these three renewable resources -- wind, biomass, and solar -- represent 543 out of the 561 MW installed in May 2012. Other fuels like coal and natural gas played a relatively minor role in terms of new capacity installed in May. Nevertheless, the year-to-date cumulative data shows that natural gas powers the largest share of projects installed in 2012 -- 2,811 MW out of the 6,225 MW installed so far in 2012.