2012 in Review: A Big Year for Renewable Energy

This past year brought BIG growth for renewable energy development. As the popularity and adoption of renewables continues to rise, we look forward to 2013 being another promising year for our industry!   Here’s a glimpse at some of the major, super impressive renewable energy accomplishments in 2012.

  • Renewable energy made up 46% of new U.S. electricity generation capacity added in 2012 (through October). That’s a nearly 50% increase from the same time period in 2011. Let’s look at the installed projects in more detail:
    • Nearly half (167 projects, 47%) of the completed renewable energy projects were solar. Wind (92 projects, 26%) and biomass (79 projects, 22%) were the second largest contributors based on number of projects completed, with hydro (9 projects, 3%) and geothermal (7 projects, 2%) making up the balance.
    • Of the total installed capacity, wind projects contributed the largest energy generation potential, representing approximately 5,400 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity (77%). Solar contributed another roughly 1,000 MW (15%). Biomass (400 MW, 6%), geothermal (120 MW, 2%), and hydro (12 MW, < 1%) contributed the remainder.
  • Comparing the first nine months of 2012 to the same time-frame in 2011, coal used for electricity generation dropped by 16%.
  • United States employment in the solar industry grew at a rate of 13% from August 2011 to September 2012, versus an overall national growth rate of 2% over the same period.  Using this data, the Solar Foundation estimates that 1 out of every 230 jobs created nationally over the last year was created in the solar industry!
  • California approved the most aggressive U.S. clean car mandate, which requires 15% of cars sold in the state to be all-electric, plug-in hybrid-electric or hydrogen-powered starting in model year 2018. Ten other states are gearing up to adopt California’s standards!
  • The United Kingdom switched on the world’s largest offshore wind farm at 367 MW (at least for a little while, until the much more massive London Array [630 MW] beat it). More than 5,200 MW of offshore power are in some phase of construction around Europe, and turbine manufacturers have begun rollouts of the biggest turbines the world has ever seen!

In addition to the industry at large, there was no shortage of support for renewables within the Green Mountain community.

  • Our customers’ cumulative environmental impact has reached an amazing 19.4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide avoided, due to all of our customers’ support for renewable energy!  To put this into context, that has a similar carbon impact to planting 2.3 million trees. (Data is cumulative through 2011; 2012 data coming soon!)
  • The Green Mountain Energy Sun Club made eleven solar array donations to non-profits in Texas and New York this year. Since the program’s founding in 2002, Sun Club members have helped install more than 500 kilowatts of solar power capacity, preventing over 787,300 pounds of CO2 emissions each year. That’s like not driving 878,500 miles or 390 households turning off their lights for a year!

Supporters of renewable energy should be proud of the accomplishments our industry achieved in 2012.  With your continued support, 2013 is sure to be another record-breaking year for renewable energy development.  Cheers to using even more sun, wind and water for good in the New Year!