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Nearly half of new U.S. energy in 2012 was renewable

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The latest report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects shows renewable energy accounted for almost half of new energy capacity in the U.S.

According to the Energy Infrastructure Update, renewable energy accounted for 49.10 percent of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed in 2012. The electrical generating capacity totaled about 12,956 MW.

The SUN DAY campaign, a non-profit foundation organized to promote "sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels" released a press release celebrating the announcement.

"If there were still any lingering doubts about the ability of renewable energy technologies to come on-line quickly and in amounts sufficient to displace fossil fuels and nuclear power, the 2012 numbers have put those doubts to rest," said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "Not only has renewable energy become a major player in the U.S. electrical generation market, but it has also emerged in 2012 as the reigning champion."

More than a quarter of the new capacity was brought online in the month of December.

Most of the new capacity came in the form of new wind units, with solar, biomass and geothermal energy sources also significantaly contributing to new generation. Among traditional fuels, natural gas and coal led the way over nuclear and oil electricity generation.

Total, renewable energy sources account for just over 15 percent of installed generating capacity, though net generation of electricity from renewables is closer to about 13 percent.

While much has been said lately of the tough times coal has found itself in, 2012 coal capacity rose 135 percent over 2011. Coal accounted for about 17 percent of new generation even though existing coal plants lost some place in the market.

Overall new generation capacity in 2012 rose more than 20 percent over 2011.