HOUSTON – Natural gas continues to eat into coal’s share of U.S. power generation, accounting for more than 50 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity last year, according to a new report.
Power generators added about 13,500 megawatts of new capacity last year, less than half the amount that had been added the year before, the Energy Information Administration said in a report Tuesday. One megawatt is enough to power about 500 Texas homes in normal weather.
Solar power made up about 22 percent of the nation’s capacity increase, followed by coal (11 percent) and wind (8 percent).
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New capacity from natural gas-fired plants slipped overall, growing by 6,800 megawatts last year compared to an increase of 9,200 megawatts the year before. But companies bolstered their gas capacity at both plants designed for peak-demand hours and others used to provide base load power, which typically use coal and nuclear power, according to the EIA. Generators are shifting from coal to natural gas in anticipation of a steep decline in U.S. coal power after the Environmental Protection Agency sets new limits on carbon emissions next year.
Texas leads growth
Texas added the second-largest amount of generating power last year, behind California, with about 1,500 megawatts. Only 400 megawatts of Texas’ new capacity came from natural gas, as one new coal plant in the state — the Sandy Creek Energy Station in Riesel, Texas — accounted for more than half of the increase in U.S. coal capacity, the EIA reported.
California, which added the largest amount of power capacity last year, accounted for about 60 percent of the nation’s new natural gas capacity, part of an effort to make its strained power grid more reliable, the EIA said.
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