The renewable energy revolution continues, with renewable energy accounting for a greater and greater share of new US power capacity year after year.
In the first three quarters of 2020, renewable energy — almost entirely solar and wind energy — accounted for 70% of new US power capacity, based on official utility-scale power plant data from FERC and small-scale solar power estimates from CleanTechnica. (Small-scale solar includes rooftop solar and small ground-mounted solar power plants.)
We will publish a revised report next month when we collect more official small-scale solar data. A chart without small-scale solar included is published below.
In September, 100% of new power plant capacity came from wind and solar power. The following are some details from FERC on the power plants added in September:
- Bitter Ridge Wind Farm LLC’s 146.6 MW Bitter Ridge Wind Farm in Jay County, IN is online. The power generated is sold to Constellation Energy Group under long-term contract.
- Fuerza Eolica de San Matias S de RL de CV’s 30.0 MW San Matias Wind Farm in Baja CA is online.
- Dominion Virginia Power’s 12.0 MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind is online.
- Monroe Solar Farm LLC’s 13.1 MW Monroe Solar Farm in Middlesex County, NJ is online.
- Strata Solar Development LLC’s 12.0 MW Danville Solar Farm in Pittsylvania County, VA is online.
- Allis Medina Solar LLC’s 7.4 MW Allis Solar Facility in Orleans County, NY is online. The power generated is sold to National Grid USA under long-term contract.
Total Installed Capacity by Power Source
Just looking at total cumulative installed capacity for large-scale wind and solar power, they now account for 13.3% of US electricity capacity, while adding in hydropower brings the figure to 21.6%.
With coal declining, that means the US has hit another milestone in the renewable energy revolution — those three renewable energy sources have passed up coal in terms of installed capacity, which is now at 20%.
Meanwhile, nuclear is down at 8.7%, but natural gas is at the top of the pyramid, holding 44.5% of US electricity generation capacity.
Adding in small-scale solar power capacity might increase solar power’s share from 4% to 6% or 7%, though, bringing down the share from all other sources on a relative basis. But without such data, I am only looking at installed capacity from large-scale solar power plants at the moment. Return in coming weeks for an update that includes small-scale solar power.
Renewable Energy in 2020 vs. 2019
What is perhaps most interesting in this report is how much more solar and wind power are dominating new power capacity than they were in 2019.
Whereas wind and utility-scale solar power accounted for 63.6% of new large-scale power plants in 2020, they accounted for 45.9% in the first three quarters of 2019.
Power Capacity vs. Electricity Generation
All of the above concerns power capacity — which is basically the max power a facility can generate. That is not the same as actual electricity generation. Also, since the sun doesn’t shine for several hours at night (and during storms) and the wind doesn’t always blow, solar and wind typically produce less electricity from 1 gigawatt of installed capacity.
Using other data, from the US Energy Information Administration, I will publish our next US Electricity Generation Report later today.
The Next 3 Years
Based on what’s in the pipeline and recent trends, FERC expects much more growth in renewable energy share in the next three years. Here’s a snapshot look at what the agency thinks is coming down the line:
- Renewables = 20% of US Electricity Generation in First 3 Quarters
- Solar Power = 60% of New US Power Capacity in June
- Solar PV Panels Were 12× More Expensive In 2010, 459× More Expensive In 1977
- Elon Musk Explains Why Tesla Solar Power Is So Cheap — CleanTechnica Exclusive
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