According to the latest information from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, renewable energy has increased to 15% of U.S. electricity generation in the first nine months of 2016, its highest level in at least 30 years. And while the largest single source is still hydroelectric dams, all non-hydro sources now make up a larger share at 8.5% of all generation.
Both distributed and utility-scale solar added up to 1.4% of total generation during this period, a 41% increase over the figure for the first nine months of 2015. And while the U.S. beat out Japan to become the world’s second-largest solar market this year, due to in part to its large size solar makes up a smaller portion of total generation than in Japan, most Western European nations and even some countries in Latin America.
Globally, Italy was the leading nation for the portion of electricity from solar at around 9.1% of production in 2015. However, this year Italy may be surpassed by Honduras, which installed 388 MW of solar in 2015 in a nation of only 8 million residents with a per-capita GDP of under $5,000 annually. In Germany, which was long the solar market leader, solar represented 6% of generation in 2015.
However, the United States’ portion of solar will increase significantly in coming years, as solar and wind are the leading sources of new capacity coming online. The United States is expected to install 13-14 GW of solar PV this year, which will increase the overall capacity in the nation by 50%. According to Mercom Capital the United States will install another 13 GW in 2017, which means that the overall capacity of solar will double in only two years.
Currently the largest source of non-hydro electricity in the United States is wind, which represented 5.2% of generation in the first nine months of 2016. Similar to the extension of the U.S. Investment Tax Credit, the extension of the federal Production Tax Credit for wind means that the U.S. wind market remains strong, and a higher portion of non-hydro renewables can be expected in future years.