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Electric Power Monthly Highlights

Notable in the latest EIA Electric Power Monthly, which takes us halfway through the year….

California’s solar dominance grows: In the first six months of 2014, California accounted for 52.2% of the utility-scale solar electricity (PV and thermal) generated in the United States. The state grabbed an even bigger share in the first half of this year, 56.4% (7,343 gigawatt-hours out of the U.S. total of 13,026)…. A little after noon last Thursday, by the way, solar generation in the Golden State reached a record 6,444 megawatts. Remember, too, that this doesn’t include a whole lot of rooftop solar, a subject I explored in some detail earlier this year.

Other solar leaders: Arizona follows California as the No. 2 solar state in the nation, with 1,762 GWh generated so far this year, but 2015 has seen a new state move into the No. 3 slot – North Carolina. With generation up 104.5% this year and 867 GWh generated through June, North Carolina has nudged aside Nevada (826 GWh). New Jersey (443 GWh), Massachusetts (357 GWh) and New Mexico (337 GWh) follow. These top seven states accounted for 91.5 percent of utility-scale solar generated in the U.S. in the first half of the year. A lurking state that could disrupt this leaderboard in the next year or so: Texas.

solar ytd

Coal continues to lose ground to natural gas: Generation from coal was off 8.5 percent this June compared to last June, and for the first half of the year was down 14.4 percent. Natural gas was up 22.4 percent in June, and YTD was up 19.2 percent.

coal vs nat gas chart2Wind energy’s year blows, bad: Despite increased capacity, wind generation this June was down 14.6% compared to June 2014, and YTD generation was down 5.8%. As the EIA explained recently, this was due to poor wind conditions in the West, generally, but was felt most acutely in the Pacific Northwest, where YTD generation was off 22.7% in Idaho, 26.7% in Oregon and 21.2% in Washington.

Wind’s poor year left its contribution to U.S. generation YTD at 4.7 percent, where it was two years ago. By contrast, utility-scale solar, while still small, continued to grow quickly, from 0.2 percent of U.S. generation YTD in 2013 to 0.7 percent this year.solar vs wind chart