Solar seems to always be in the headlines, but less is written about wind, and almost nothing is written about hydroelectric power these days. However, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind is the new leader when it comes to renewables power generation, beating hydroelectric for the first time.
Annual wind generation totaled 300 million megawatt hours (MWh) in 2019, which surpassed hydroelectric generation by 26 million MWh.
“Wind generation has increased steadily during the past decade, in part, because the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which drove wind capacity additions, was extended,” the report stated.
However, hydroelectric generation has wavered between 250 million MWh and 320 million MWh in the last decade and has not exceeded 300 MWh since 2011.
The peak year for new hydroelectric generation was 1962 when slightly less than 4 MWh came online. Wind’s growth began approximately 20 years ago with annual installed generations.
Total installed wind capacity exceeded total installed hydroelectric capacity in 2016, but in 2019 wind generation surpassed hydroelectric generation.
“The average annual capacity factors for the hydroelectric fleet between 2009 and 2019 ranged from 35% to 43%,” the report said. “The average annual capacity factors for the U.S. wind fleet were lower, ranging from 28% to 35%.”
The report also stated, “As of the end of 2019, the United States had 103 GW of wind capacity, nearly all of which (77%) were installed in the past decade. The United States has 80 GW of hydroelectric capacity, most of which has been operating for several decades. Only 2 GW of hydroelectric capacity has been added in the past decade, and some of those additions involved converting previously non-powered dams.”