According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2016, more generating capacity was added to the U.S. grid than in years past and that by the end of the year wind generating capacity surpassed hydropower capacity.
EIA reports that in 2016, over 27 gigawatts (GW) of electric generating capacity were added to the Nation’s power grid while about 12 GW were retired. This is the largest increase since 2012 and largest net change since 2011. Over 60% of the utility-scale capacity additions were from wind and solar resources.
EIA additionally reports that with 8,727 MW of new installed wind capacity coming online at the end of 2016, wind capacity for the year exceeded conventional hydro generating capacity. By the end of the year, actual wind generation also exceeded hydro generation. Previously, hydro capacity has been the largest renewable resource in the U.S. Based on the “hydro fleet’s higher average capacity factors and the above-normal precipitation on the West Coast,” EIA expects hydro will likely surpass wind energy again in 2017. Interestingly, EIA also reports that last month for a few early morning hours, wind power supplied more than half of the Southwest Power Pool’s electric demand. This is the first time wind generation surpassed 50% of an RTO’s generation mix.