Wind to lead U.S. electric capacity additions at power plants in 2019

By Renzo Pipoli
Wind projects will lead added electric capacity in existing power plants during 2019, while coal will lead retirements, according to the EIA. Image by distel2610/Pixabay
Wind projects will lead added electric capacity in existing power plants during 2019, while coal will lead retirements, according to the EIA. Image by distel2610/Pixabay

Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Wind generation will lead new electricity capacity in the United States in 2019 trailed by combined cycle natural gas and solar, while coal will lead retirements, followed by old natural gas, steam turbines and nuclear.

Of the expected 23.7 gigawatts of new electricity capacity additions for this year in the United States' power plants, 46 percent of it comes from wind projects, the Energy Information Administration said Thursday in a report.


"Texas, Iowa and Illinois will be home to more than half of the 2019 planned wind capacity additions," the report said. It estimated the total wind capacity to be added at 10.9 gigawatts, most of it to come online late in the year.

Natural gas is the second biggest source of capacity additions "primarily in the form of combined-cycle plants (6.1 gigawatts) and combustion-turbine plants (1.4 gigawatts)." Most will come online by June, ahead of summer months when demand is high. Pennsylvania, Florida and Louisiana will see most of this added capacity.


The third biggest energy source of new added electric capacity, solar photovoltaics, will be used for projects that will generate 4.3 gigawatts with most of them located in Texas, California and North Carolina.

The EIA report is only based on monthly information of power plants with 1 megawatt or greater capacity. In addition, homes and businesses will also install solar panels. The EIA estimates that small-scale added solar capacity will contribute an additional 3.9 gigawatts of added electric capacity this year.

Wind power generation has greatly increased in the last three years, according to the EIA, with the industry seeing a shift from fixed-tilt solar photovoltaic panels to rotating ones that can track light.

U.S. solar power for electricity generation has been projected to reach 303,000 megawatt hours per day this year, which is a 13 percent year-over-year increase. It compares with only 212,000 megawatt hours per day in 2017.

On the other hand, coal will be the energy source most retired in electric generation in the United States in 2019, with the 4.5 gigawatts representing more than half of the capacity that will be retired.

"Most of the coal retirements are scheduled to occur at the end of 2019. Half of the planned retirement capacity for coal is at a single plant, Navajo, located in Arizona, that first came online in the 1970s," the EIA said. Retirements in 2018 of coal-based electric generation were 13.7 gigawatts in 2018, a record high.


About 2.2 gigawatts of natural gas to be retired correspond to older units that have been operating for nearly 60 and 70 years in California.

"Two nuclear plants totaling 1.5 GW are currently scheduled to retire in 2019. The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, located in Massachusetts, is scheduled to retire in May, and the remaining unit at the Three Mile Island Power Station, located in Pennsylvania, is scheduled to retire in September," the EIA said.

About 35 percent of the electricity generation in the U.S. for power plants comes from natural gas, with 35 percent of generation estimated for this year, same as in the previous year, and up from 32 percent in 2017, according to the EIA.

Electricity generation from coal will represent 26 percent in 2019, down from 28 percent last year and from 30 percent in 2017.

Nuclear-based power generation for this year is estimated at 19 percent, or the same as last year. Wind, solar and other non-hydropower renewables will provide about 11 percent of electricity generation in 2019, up from 10 percent last year. Hydropower will remain flat this year at about 7 percent, same as last year.

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