An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. electric grid continued to transform in 2016. No new coal plants were added, and solar became the top new source of generating capacity. Combined with wind, a small bit of hydro, and the first nuclear plant added to the grid in decades, sources that generate power without carbon emissions accounted for two-thirds of the new capacity added in 2016. These numbers come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which asked utilities about what sources they expected to have online at the end of the year. These numbers typically show a burst of activity in December, as projects are raced to completion to take advantage of the tax benefits of reaching operational status in the current year. Overall, the EIA recorded 26 GW of new capacity added to the grid in 2016. This includes a small amount (0.3GW) of new hydropower and a smattering of projects collected under “other” that produce a similar magnitude. Notably absent from the list is coal. Also absent is distributed solar, meaning panels installed on homes and other small-scale projects. Distributed solar accounted for about 2GW of new capacity in 2015, and the EIA notes that the incentives for these projects haven’t changed considerably in 2016. Even without that 2GW, solar comes out on top, with 9.5GW of new additions this year. At 8GW, natural gas comes in second place on the EIA’s list, followed by wind at 6.8GW. Thanks to the opening of a new reactor at Watts Bar in Tennessee, nuclear also joins the list for the first time in years, adding 1.1GW of capacity. Combined, wind, nuclear, hydro, and solar account for 68 percent of the new additions, making 2016 a low-carbon year for the U.S. grid. Assuming distributed solar this year is similar to its 2015 levels, the percentage of new non-fossil generation goes up above 70.
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