Installers attach photovoltaics to the south face of the NREL parking garage
Installers attach photovoltaics to the south face of the NREL parking garage. (NREL)

New figures show the amount of renewable energy in the U.S. continues to rise, growing to 16.4 percent of total installed capacity and 13.8 percent of overall electricity supply during 2015.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) latest snapshot of the American renewables landscape reveals that while hydropower still provides nearly half of the nation’s clean power, the combined share of wind and solar energy in the total mix of renewables has increased significantly.

Statistics contained in the NREL’s annual Renewable Energy Data Book for 2015 paint a picture of a slightly more energy-efficient USA, where total energy consumption fell by 0.6 percent from 2014 and power sector consumption also fell by 1.3 percent on 2014 levels.

“Since it was first released in 2009, the Renewable Energy Data Book has provided useful insights for policymakers, analysts, and investors,” said NREL Energy Analyst Philipp Beiter. “The 2015 version of the data book highlights the ongoing trend of growing renewable energy capacity and generation in the United States and globally.”


2015 saw 15 GW of coal-fired power generation retired in the U.S. – the highest reduction in history – while renewable energy accounted for 64 percent of new electricity capacity additions; up from 52 percent in 2014.

Wind power capacity made big gains in 2015, increasing by over 12 percent (8.1 GW), to make up more than 56 percent of new U.S. renewable capacity. New installed solar capacity grew by 36 percent (5.6 GW), accounting for almost 40 percent of renewable capacity in 2015.

Renewable electricity generation – grid to household power – rose by a total of 2.4 percent. Solar electricity generation (including solar PV and concentrating solar power) grew by 36 percent (11.7 terawatt-hours) and electricity from wind power grew by 5.1 percent (9.3 terawatt-hours).

Of all U.S. states, sun-drenched California maintained its top-ranking renewable status in 2015 with 31 GW of capacity spread among a diverse mix of wind, hydro and solar power. Washington followed on 25 GW thanks to largely to the state’s vast hydropower resources, with Texas owing its 19 GW of renewable capacity mainly to wind turbines.

The report’s global review shows installed renewable capacity worldwide also grew, reaching 29.5% of total electricity capacity in 2015. Once again, solar PV was the fastest-growing technology globally, increasing by 28 percent in 2015 – the same rate as 2014.

The global clean energy investment market also continued its rise, climbing four percent from 2014 to $329 billion.

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