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Surging Wind, Solar Deliver 93% of New U.S. Grid Capacity

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Wind and solar accounted for nearly all of the new electrical generating capacity installed in the United States between January and April this year.

The two clean energy technologies accounted for 93.84% of new capacity additions over the four-month span, PVBuzz Media reports, citing an analysis of U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) data carried out by the SUN Day Campaign.

The latest edition of FERC’s Energy Infrastructure Update shows 18 new wind units bringing 3,802 megawatts of electricity onto the U.S. grid, followed by 131 new utility-scale solar installations adding 2,702 MW. Fossil gas accounted for 402 MW, followed by hydropower at 14 MW, oil at 6 MW, and biomass at 5 MW.

In April, all but one megawatt of new capacity came from wind (659 MW) and solar (147 MW).

“Utility-scale renewable energy facilities collectively now account for 24.77% of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity and continue to expand their lead over coal (19.28%), nuclear power (8.21%), and oil (3.14%),” PV Buzz writes, with solar supplying 14.96% and wind 10.24%.

While FERC reports a “high probability” that solar and wind will add about 63,000 MW by April 2024, “coal and oil are projected to plummet— by 25,171 MW and 3,354 MW respectively,” while nuclear is set to lose 3,256 MW, the news story states. While new gas plants will still be built, their “currently dominant share of total generating is forecast to diminish as the gap between the growth in new renewable capacity and new gas capacity continues to accelerate.”

PVBuzz helpfully explains the difference between a power station’s capacity and its actual output, which depends both on the number of megawatts installed and the percent of the time it can supply electricity. Due to the differences between the technologies, renewables accounted for 24.8% of installed capacity but 21.6% of total generation over the first three months of this year, while coal made up 19.3% of capacity but delivered 23.2% of the power.

[The renewables, on the other hand, accounted for zero cases of black lung disease, mountaintop removal, or safety violations leading to deadly mine collapses, and did not help fry the planet when used as directed.—Ed.]

Even with numbers that show renewables surging while fossil fuels fade, “FERC’s forecasts for strong growth by solar and wind over the next few years may actually prove to be quite conservative,” said SUN DAY Executive Director Ken Bossong. “Strong support from the Biden administration coupled with further declines in wind and solar costs, stronger state Renewable Portfolio Standards, expanding corporate renewable energy purchases, and public pressure to address worsening climate change are combining to accelerate an already fast-moving train.”

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 21, 2021

“Utility-scale renewable energy facilities collectively now account for 24.77% of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity and continue to expand their lead over coal (19.28%), nuclear power (8.21%), and oil (3.14%)

Given capacity factors, intermittency, co-location with energy storage, etc., how much higher would we aspirationally want to see renewables get compared with the alternatives? 3x? 5x? Is that a number that's been put out there to any degree of certainty? 

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