100% of New Power Capacity in USA Came from Renewables in June
Solar power keeps growing in the United States. In the month of June, 60.1% of new power capacity added in the country was from solar power plants. Another 37.5% was from wind power plants. And 2.4% was from hydropower. If you’ve done the quick math on that, that means that 100% of new power capacity came from renewable energy sources in June. (Toggle the dropdown button in the interactive chart below to also see charts for January–June 2020, January–June 2019, and total installed capacity in the United States.)
In the first 6 months of the year together, 27.3% of new power capacity came from solar, 29.4% came from wind, 0.4% came from hydropower, and 42.7% came from natural gas. So, June was clearly far more renewable-friendly than the first half of the year, and solar in particular was shining brightly (simple pun intended). Even so, in the first half of 2020, renewable energy accounted for a little more than 57% of new US power capacity.
Here’s a list of renewable energy projects that went online in June 2020:
- Southern Power Co’s 200.1 MW Reading Wind Project in Lyon County, KS.
- Heart of Texas Wind LLC’s 179.8 MW RTS 2 Wind Project in McCulloch County, TX.
- Prospero Energy Project LLC’s 300.0 MW Prospero Solar Project in Andrews County, TX. The power generated is sold to Shell Energy North America US LP under long-term contract.
- Wagyu Solar LLC’s 121.9 MW Wagyu Solar Project in Brazoria County, TX.
- Harmony Florida Solar LLC’s 74.5 MW Harmony Florida Solar Project in Osceola County, FL.
- Taylor Creek Solar LLC’s 74.5 MW Taylor Creek Solar Project in Orange County, FL.
- CS Energy LLC’s 14.5 MW Brooks County Solar Project in Brooks County, TX.
- CS Energy LLC’s 10.9 MW Menard County Solar Project in Menard County, TX.
- CS Energy LLC’s 7.3 MW McLennan County Solar Project in McLennan County, TX.
- East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc. placed in service the 24.0 MW Lake Livingston Hydroelectric Project No. 12632. The project is located on the Trinity River, in San Jacinto, Polk, Trinity, and Walker Counties, TX.
- FFP Project 101, LLC filed a license application for the 1,200 MW Goldendale Pumped Storage Project No. 14861. The project would be located off-stream of the Columbia River in Klickitat County, WA and Sherman County, OR.
- Georgia Power Company filed an application to increase the capacity of its North Georgia Project No. 2354 from 168.400 to 173.200 MW. The project is located on Tallulah, Chattooga, and Tugalo Rivers in Rabun, Habersham, and Stephens Counties, GA, and Oconee County, SC.
- Scott’s Mill Hydro, LLC filed an exemption application for the 4.500 MW Scott’s Mill Hydroelectric Project No. 14867. The project is located on the James River in Bedford and Amherst Counties, VA.
Naturally, electricity generation capacity is not electricity generation. I will do a separate report on electricity generation.
Why Is Solar Power Rising?
If you’ve been reading CleanTechnica in recent weeks (or recent years), you know the most probable reason why solar power keeps rising in the power capacity charts. Solar panel costs have continued to drop year after year and even quarter after quarter. As I recently wrote, “Solar PV Panels Were 12× More Expensive in 2010, 459× More Expensive in 1977.” The cost of solar panels has rolled off a cliff.
For both large-scale projects (represented above) and rooftop solar, US solar panels are still well above the global average due to the China–US trade war and specific tariffs placed on certain low-cost solar panels produced abroad, but they are lower than they were in years past.
In general, large-scale solar power plants have gotten so cheap that it’s rare another energy option outcompetes solar when it comes to new wholesale power capacity, and it continues to contribute the most to solar power capacity growth in the US and abroad. Portugal just received a new record-low solar price bid of $1.3¢/kWh in August, and there are new US solar power power plants with a cost per kilowatt-hour just a bit above that. In fact, utility-scale solar power has gotten so cheap that it is becoming cheaper to build new solar power plants than get electricity from old/existing fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, and the realization is growing that “overbuilding” solar and wind power capacity is actually the cheapest plan for the future of our electricity grid.
The utility industry may be a slow-moving industry with terawatts of inertia, but it’s not a stupid industry. Expect solar power capacity to keep growing strongly while coal power, nuclear power, and even natural gas power plants go out of style.
Note that the capacity figures above — both added capacity and total capacity — are not the same as electricity generation. You can have 1000 gigawatts of capacity installed by not produce a single gigawatt-hour of electricity. Several factors affect how much electricity is actually generated from any power plant of any source. A coming report will cover electricity generation in the US.
Don’t Forget About Rooftop Solar Power
In addition to the utility-scale solar portion of the story (represented in the FERC data), the rooftop solar side of the story (not represented in the FERC data) is increasingly compelling. Tesla has rather dramatically cut the cost of rooftop solar installations by cutting various “soft costs” and whittling the consumer cost down the the cost of hardware, installation, and a small profit for Tesla — I have more on that coming with a couple of exclusive quotes from Elon Musk on the topic, so stay tuned. (And note that if you would like to go solar with Tesla and need a referral code for a $100 discount, you are free to use mine: https://ts.la/zachary63404.) There are still permitting costs (including time costs) that could certainly be cut in many jurisdictions to bring the price down further, but that’s a matter for local policymakers unless the U.S. government takes a leadership role at some point and implements a nationwide solar permitting policy that helps streamline the process and cut costs further.
Whether it is rooftop solar power competing with retail electricity prices or utility-scale solar power competing with other power plants on the wholesale electricity market, solar is winning. It is winning more and more of the market. I wonder what the share of new capacity and electricity generation will be in 2025, and in 2030.
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