Renewables Are Now Providing 2,500-MW of New U.S. Electrical Generating Capacity Each Month as Solar and Wind Both Set New Records in 2021 for Capacity Additions.
- Jan 4, 2022 12:24 pm GMT
nd that does not include small-scale distributed solar. 
Moreover, during the first ten months of 2021, solar and wind have each set new records for capacity additions. The 9,604-MW of new solar thus far reported by FERC for the first ten months of 2021 dwarfs the 6,516-MW added during the same time period in 2020 or the 3,758-MW added in 2019. Likewise, the 8,580-MW of new wind capacity significantly exceeds the 7,161-MW reported for 2020 or the 4,721-MW added in 2019.
The increase in solar and wind capacity is manifesting itself in ever-higher levels of electrical generation by those sources. According to the latest issue of EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" report (with data through October 31, 2021), utility-scale solar and wind generation during the first ten month of 2021 increased by 27.9% and 11.1% respectively compared to the same period in 2020. Wind now accounts for 8.64% of U.S. electrical production while solar - including small-scale - is providing 4.08%.
In addition, FERC data suggest that the share of generating capacity from solar and wind is on track to increase significantly over the next three years (i.e., by October 2024). FERC notes that there may be as much as 170,941-MW of new solar capacity in the pipeline with 52,692-MW classified as "high probability additions" offset by only 92-MW of projected "retirements." Just a year ago, FERC reported 128,001-MW of solar in the three-year pipeline with 32,784-MW classified as "high probability." In addition, new wind capacity by October 2024 could total 71,929-MW with 23,180-MW being "high probability" and only 150-MW of retirements expected.
“High probability” generation capacity additions for utility-scale solar and wind combined, minus anticipated retirements, reflect a projected net increase of 75,630-MW, or over 2,100-MW per month. Again, that figure does not include new distributed, small-scale solar capacity or additions by hydropower, geothermal, and biomass. By comparison, net growth for natural gas will be only 14,327-MW. Thus, solar and wind together are forecast to provide more than five times as much new net generating capacity as natural gas over the next three years ... not to mention over 50 times as much net new capacity as nuclear power (just 1,377-MW).
If just FERC's latest "high probability" projections materialize, by October 2024, renewable energy sources should provide over 30 percent (30.13%) of the nation's total available installed generating capacity with utility-scale solar and wind accounting for 9.00% and 11.81% respectively, or more than 20% combined.
"The breath-taking pace at which solar and wind are adding new capacity explains why renewable sources combined have eclipsed the generating capacity of nuclear power and surpassed that of coal as well as whittled down the lead of natural gas," noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "Conservatively, over the next three years, renewables should expand from about a quarter of the nation's generating capacity today to at least thirty percent and probably more."
FERC's 6-page "Energy Infrastructure Update for October 2021" was released on December 20, 2021 and can be found at: https://cms.ferc.gov/media/energy-infrastructure-update-october-2021. For the information cited in this update, see the tables entitled "New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion)," "Total Available Installed Generating Capacity," and "Generation Capacity Additions and Retirements." FERC notes that its data are derived from Velocity Suite, ABB Inc. and The C Three Group LLC. and adds the caveat that "the data may be subject to update."
FERC's "Energy Infrastructure Update for October 2020" report can be found at: https://cms.ferc.gov/media/energy-infrastructure-update-october-2020
FERC's "Energy Infrastructure Update for October 2016" report can be found at:
FERC's "Energy Infrastructure Update for October 2011" report can be found at:
EIA's latest "Electric Power Monthly" report was released on December 23, 2021. For the data cited in this news release, see Table ES1.B. "Total Electric Power Industry Summary Statistics, Year-to-Date 2021 and 2020" at https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=table_es1b
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