Report Details a Decline in 2013 Power Plant Capacity Additions

The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued a report last week detailing the 13,500 megawatts (MW) of electric utility capacity added in 2013.  According to the report, the total capacity added is down roughly 50% from 2012.  Natural gas and solar were the top industries generating additional capacity at just over 50% and 22% respectively. 

Natural gas capacity additions dropped in 2013, slipping by 26% from the previous year.  The 2013 additions were split between combustion turbine peaker plants and combined-cycle plants.  Turbine peaker plants run during the highest peak-demand hours of the year and combined-cycle plants provide intermediate and baseload power.   California was responsible for nearly 60% of the total 2013 additional natural gas capacity.  This additional capacity was a response by the state to add more stable generation resources to complement its growing variable-output renewables, like solar, to their state energy portfolio. 

Several solar projects were completed in 2013, adding an additional 2,193 MW of capacity.  The completion of the projects effectively doubles the total solar capacity in the United States.  Nearly 75% of the additional capacity was added in California, and Arizona was responsible for 10%.

Two coal plants added to the 2013 megawatt capacity for a combined total of 11% for the year. Both plants were originally scheduled to be operational in 2012 but according to the report, the Sand Creek Energy Station, a steam coal plant in Texas, was delayed due to damage sustained in a 2011 test and the Edwardsport plant, an integrated gasification combined-cycle plant in Indiana, came to completion as the economics lined up due to dropping natural gas prices. 

Wind power saw a sharp decline from 2012, dropping from 12,855 MW in 2012 to 1,032 MW in 2013.  The report attributes the high megawatt capacity added in 2012 the expiration of the federal production tax credit in 2012 which required companies to finish projects by the end of the year.  However, unlike 2012 the 2013 tax credit extension did not require companies to complete projects by the end of 2013 - leaving many projects started but not yet finished.