By - Jim Vess

Natural gas-fired plants dominated 2018 new generating capacity, renewables set to rebound in 2019

Energize Weekly, January 16, 2019

New natural gas-fired generation capacity in 2018 accounted for nearly three-quarters of the total 24,808 megawatts (MW) installed for the year—and was double the amount of gas-fired capacity installed in 2017, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

The 18,550 MW of natural gas-fired capacity more than offset the 16,900 MW of coal-fired plants that were retired in 2018.

In 2017, 9,837 MW of gas-fired capacity was added, about half the total 19,367 MW of new generation that was added for the year.

Renewable energy installations are projected to bounce back in 2019 and account for 64 percent of the 23,700 MW of capacity additions for the year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In 2018, more than half the new gas-fired plants—10,500 MW—were in the PJM Interconnection’s mid-Atlantic region. PJM, the nation’s largest grid operator and wholesale market, has seen both coal-fired plants and nuclear plants close or announce plans for closure. Most of the additions were large gas-fired plants.

Dominion Energy Inc., for example, opened the 1,588-MW Greensville Power Station, owned by its regulated utility, Virginia Electric and Power Co.

In Snyder County, Pa., Panda Power and Corona Power opened the 1,124-MW Panda Hummel Station, and Moxie Freedom put a 1,050-MW plant, owned by private equity investors, into service in Luzerne County, Pa.

The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative opened its 1,114-MW Wildcat Point in Cecil County, Md.

Two of the largest utility-owned plants, outside wholesale markets, going into service in 2018 were Duke Energy Corp.’s 1,640-MW Crystal River plant in Florida and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s 1,132-MW Allen plant, which replaced a nearly 60-year-old coal-fired plant that was shuttered.

Smaller natural gas-fired additions were made on the grids in Texas, New England, New York and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which runs a wholesale market covering all or parts of 15 states in the central U.S. and one Canadian province.

 A U.S. affiliate of Japan’s Osaka Gas Co. Ltd. is the largest single owner of the 805-MW Towantic Energy Center in Connecticut, which is in the market of ISO-New England.

Overall, wind and solar capacity additions were down in 2018 compared to 2017. About 3,081 MW of wind capacity was added, a 38 percent drop year-on-year.

Texas’s ERCOT market added the most wind, 1,080 MW, followed by the Southwest Power Pool with 580 MW. Outside of the wholesale markets, 705 MW was built.

For 2019, a total of 10,900 MW of wind projects are slated to come online, according to EIA. Most will go into service at the end of the year.

“The solar industry took a hit when the Trump administration issued tariffs in January 2018 on imports of solar cells and panels,” S&P Global said. “About 2,888 MW of solar was built in 2018, down from 3,964 MW added in 2017.”

In 2019, 4,300 MW of new solar photovoltaic capacity is set to be built, with nearly half of the installations in Texas, California and North Carolina, the EIA said.

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