The Generation Professionals Group is for utility professionals who work in biomass, coal, gas/oil, hydro, natural gas, or nuclear power generation fields. 


Renewables Were Almost 2/3 of New U.S. Generating Capacity in 1stQ 2023 as Solar and Wind Growth Exceeded FERC's Earlier Projections by More Than 50%

Ken Bossong's picture
Executive Director, SUN DAY Campaign

Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign since 1992

  • Member since 2003
  • 53 items added with 23,559 views
  • May 16, 2023

Based upon a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data newly released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided almost two-thirds (64.64%) of new U.S. utility-scale generating capacity added in the first quarter of this year.


New utility-scale solar capacity was 2,530 megawatts (MW) or 39.56% of the total ... and that does not include small-scale distributed PV systems. New wind capacity provided 1,475-MW or 23.06% of the total. Hydropower and biomass added 100-MW and 29-MW respectively. New natural gas capacity totaled 2,259-MW  (35.32)% and was supplemented by 2-MW of new oil. No new capacity additions were reported for coal, nuclear power, or geothermal energy.


In the month of March alone, all new capacity additions were provided by just solar (491-MW) and wind (409-MW). These included the 297.3-MW Seven Cowboy Wind Project in Washita County, Oklahoma and the 112.0-MW Deerfield Wind Energy II Project in Huron County, Michigan, as well as the 102.0-MW Chaparral Solar Project in Kern County, California; the 100.0-MW Skyhawk Solar Project in Obion County, Tennessee; and the 100.0-MW Crossett Solar Project in Ashley County, Arkansas.  


With these latest additions, renewable energy now accounts for 27.67% of total installed utility-scale generating capacity including 11.51% from wind and 6.67% from solar.


Notably, the share of U.S. generating capacity is growing at a substantially faster rate than had been anticipated by FERC. In March 2020, renewables' share of total generating capacity was just 22.74%. At that time, FERC projected that "high probability" additions by solar in the ensuing three-year period would be 24,083-MW. In fact, solar grew by 39,470-MW. Likewise, FERC's three-year forecast for net "high probability" wind additions was 26,867-MW. Instead, wind expanded by 38,550-MW. Combined, new solar and wind capacity additions totaled 78,020-MW during the past three years or 53.13% more than FERC had expected.  


For the next three years, FERC is now forecasting 77,594-MW of new "high probability" solar capacity joined by 17,071-MW in net new wind capacity plus 556-MW from hydropower and 2-MW from geothermal steam. By comparison, coal capacity is foreseen as dropping by 28,507-MW, oil by 1,572-MW, natural gas by 574-MW, nuclear power by 123-MW, and biomass by 103-MW.


If FERC's projections prove to be accurate, by the end of the first quarter of 2026, renewable energy generating capacity will be more than a third (33.46%) of the total with nearly equal shares provided by wind (12.23%) and solar (12.16%). Meanwhile the shares provided by fossil fuels and nuclear power will all decrease: natural gas from 44.00% to 41.83%, coal from 17.12% to 14.16%, oil from 2.99% to 2.73%, and nuclear power from 7.97% to 7.63%.


Keeping in mind, however, the degree to which FERC underestimated wind and solar growth during the past three years, U.S. generating capacity by the mix of all renewables by spring 2026 could end up being significantly higher than FERC now expects.


Over the past three years, renewable sources, led by solar and wind, added nearly five percentage points to their share of the nation's electrical generating. If that pace continues or accelerates - as seems likely - renewables will be providing more than a third of total installed generating capacity within the next three years and quite possibly more.


# # # # # # # # # 




FERC's 8-page "Energy Infrastructure Update for March 2023" was released on May 15, 2023, and can be found at: 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."  


For FERC's three-year forecast (April 2020 - March 2023), see the "Energy Infrastructure Update for March 2020" at:




[1] FERC generally only reports data for utility-scale facilities (i.e., those rated 1-MW or greater) and therefore its data do not reflect the capacity of distributed renewables, notably rooftop solar PV which - according to the EIA - accounts for approximately 30% of the nation's electrical generation by solar. That would suggest that the total of distributed and utility-scale solar capacity combined is significantly more than the solar capacity of 6.67% reported by FERC for the first quarter of 2023 and is perhaps closer to 9.0% or 10.0%.


[2] Capacity is not the same as actual generation. Capacity factors for nuclear power and fossil fuels tend to be higher than those for most renewables. Thus, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that renewables accounted for 22.6% of the nation's total electrical generation in 2022 - that is, somewhat less than what FERC reported was their share (27.3%) of installed generating capacity last year.   

# # # # # # # # #

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 16, 2023

Was there an entity other than FERC who had projections that turned out to be closer to accurate? 

Tom Rolfson's picture
Tom Rolfson on May 16, 2023

Thanks for sharing this info- with all the various projections on generation capacity, seeing the real-world numbers helps to identify further trends. Given that this is only for 1st Q 2023, it may not mean a lot depending on how the rest of the year goes. I would expect to see a bit more gas growth at some point to combat intermittency and help with reliability concerns.

Julian Silk's picture
Julian Silk on May 16, 2023

Just some information to try to answer Matt Chester's question. The U.S. Department of Energy forecast from the Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) for January 2023 has its most relevant table at 43 of 49 at This is U.S. Regional Electricity Generation, Electric Power Sector (billion kilowatthours). The Capacity Forecasts have been discontinued. Renewable Generation increased substantially, primarily in Wind, and to a lesser degree in Solar. Assuming few Natural Gas capacity increases (Natural Gas generation was forecast to fall) and no significant increases in petroleum capacity, the forecast may have been in the range, with hydroelectric capacity making up most of the difference. As far as generation, renewable generation was forecast to be about 25% (243.1/970.4). Actual figures as of May 2023 are about 24% (see - 231.2/951.1  - 43 of 50). Given the overestimate of actual demand, it would seem that the percentage renewable increase in capacity was underestimated, and private estimates (possibly from CleanTechnica) may have been more accurate. 

But again, this is extremely difficult to measure from the published figures - the snowpack increase in the West, and the relatively mild winter elsewhere, may have been responsible for any STEO discrepancy.  In trying to make any adjustments to their models, it would be desirable to get much more information on Texas, and how projections for weather were relative to what happened.  The Texas legislature is at least entertaining measures to reduce renewable incentives, so there is clearly more to the story.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network® is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »