U.S. Installed Solar Capacity to Surpass Nuclear Power in Three Years
According to a review of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) report “Energy Infrastructure Update for August 2021” performed by the Sun Day Campaign, the federal agency is forecasting that the nation’s installed utility-scale solar power generating capacity will surpass nuclear power generating capacity within three years. Sun Day further reveals the report’s finding that renewable energy sources accounted for 86.46% – or 13,868 megawatts (MW) – of the 16,039 MW of new generating capacity was added during the first eight months of the year. Of that total, wind energy led the capacity additions with 7,224 MW, followed closely by solar (6,585 MW). There were also small additions by hydropower (25 MW), geothermal (25 MW), and biomass (9 MW). FERC generally records only the Installed utility-grade solar power (1 MW and greater) and does not include distributed electricity generation from commercial and residential roof top installations.
The October 5, 2021 Sun Day press release found most of the balance (2,155 MW) was being provided by natural gas and zero new capacity added this year by coal and only a miniscule 16 MW of new oil generating capacity.
“Renewables now provide more than a quarter (25.22%) of total U.S. available installed generating capacity. By comparison, a year ago, their share was only 23.22%. Five years ago, it was 18.39% and a decade earlier it was 14.09%,” Sun Day said pointing to the current FERC data for 2021.
Wind and solar accounted for 98.52% of the 1,554 MW of new electricity generating capacity gained in July and August dramatically outpacing natural gas contribution of 23 MW. Wind is now more than a tenth (10.48%) of the nation’s generating capacity while utility-scale solar has surpassed five percent (5.02%), again, not including distributed generation by solar power which includes rooftop solar panels. According to numbers collected by Sun Day from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, roof top solar panels now account for about 30% of the nation’s electrical generation harvested from the sun.
Moreover, the FERC data suggest that renewables’ share of generating capacity is on track to increase significantly over the next three years by August 2024 with the “High probability” of generation capacity additions for wind, minus anticipated retirements, that reflect a projected net increase of 21,708 MW and solar foreseen as growing by 44,052 MW.
“FERC’s data confirm that wind and solar are dominating new capacity additions in 2021 and are likely to continue doing so in the future,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Nonetheless, to effectively address climate change, the pace of renewable energy growth needs to increase at an even faster rate.”
FERC “Energy Infrastructure Update for August 2021”, September 2021, https://cms.ferc.gov/media/energy-infrastructure-update-august-2021
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