TABLE S-1 Installed Capacity and Net Generation from Renewable Resources, 2009

Generation Technology

China

United States

Installed Capacity (GW)

Generation (TWh)

Installed Capacity (GW)

Generation (TWh)

Conventional hydropower

196.79

574.7

77.93

272.13

Wind

16.13a

26.9

33.54

70.76

Solar PV

0.3

0.45b

1.25

0.81b

Solar thermal

0.43

 

Biopower

4.0

20.0

11.35

54.34

Geothermal

2.35

15.21

Subtotal

217.12

622.05

126.85

413.25

Entire electrical system

874.0

3663.9

1131.58

3953.11

Sources: CEC, 2010; EIA, 2010a-d; NEA, 2010; REN 21, 2010; Sherwood, 2010.

a Cumulative, reflecting installations that were completed and brought on-line by the end of 2009.

b Data is for grid-connected systems.

and the United States accounted for more than 25 percent of the 305 gigawatt (GW) worldwide installed capacity of non-hydro renewable power (REN 21, 2010). To put this in perspective, though, worldwide generation of all non-hydro renewable power in 2008 (EIA, 2010c) could have powered the United States for only seven weeks.

The past five years (2005–2009) have been a period of rapid growth in terms of installed capacity, particularly for wind turbines, and China and the United States are now global leaders in wind installations (Figure S-1). This can be misleading, however, because realistic indicators of progress must be measured in terms of Watt hours (Wh) generated, not merely GW of installed capacity, because capacity factors of variable-output renewable power technologies are lower than for fossil and nuclear energy or baseload renewable power sources such as biomass and geothermal energy.

China has made impressive strides to improve its manufacturing capability in wind turbines and solar PV systems, although the latter are almost exclusively being sold as exports. The United States has recently been the world’s top market for wind turbines, and a leading supplier of second-generation, thin-film PV materials. Much of the near-term growth in renewable power in both countries will be in wind installations, as well as some larger scale solar generation. Both countries can also harness renewable resources at smaller scales using modular technologies that are readily and rapidly distributed among population centers and, thus, generally more accessible by existing transmission and distribution systems. For example, the majority of PV capacity installed in the United States has been in installations less than 500 kW, and nearly half of that capacity has been installations ranging from 5-15 kW (NREL, 2010b).



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