Renewables made up 87.6% of new electrical generating capacity for first 3 quarters of 2021
According to a review of the SUN DAY campaign by recently released data by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower) dominated new additions of electric generating capacity in the US in the first three quarters of 2021.
FERC’s latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through September 30, 2021) shows that renewables accounted for 87.61% — or 16,665 megawatts (MW) — of the 19,022 MW of new capacity built during the first nine months of the year. Solar led the capacity expansions with 8,410 MW, closely followed by wind (8,188 MW). Compared to the first nine months of 2020, new solar capacity additions are 38.28% higher, while those of wind are 34.19% higher. There were also minor additions in 2021 by hydropower (28 MW), geothermal energy (25 MW) and biomass (14 MW).
Most of the balance was provided by natural gas (2,327 MW) combined with very small contributions from oil (19 MW) and coal (11 MW).
Renewables now supply more than a quarter (25.39%) of the total available installed generation capacity in the US – a share significantly greater than that of coal (18.88%) and more than three times that of nuclear power (8 .32%). For comparison, a year ago the share of renewable energy was only 23.28%. Five years ago it was 18.46% and ten years earlier it was 14.11%.
That growth is almost entirely attributable to a nearly three-fold increase in the share of wind in installed generation capacity and a 37-fold increase in the share of solar energy. Wind now accounts for more than a tenth (10.52%) of the country’s generating capacity (up from 3.79% in September 2011), while utility-scale solar has surpassed five percent (5.14%) — an increase compared to 0.14% in September 2011 … and that does not include distributed (e.g. on the roof) solar energy.
That growth continues. Wind and solar accounted for 100% of the 915 MW of new capacity expansions in September. This included one “unit” of wind – the 288.0 MW Maverick Wind Project in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma – as well as 14 units of solar power. The latter included the 252.9-MW Prospero Solar I-II Project in Andrews County, Texas, and the 227-MW Muscle Shoals Solar Project in Colbert County, Alabama.
In addition, FERC data suggest that the share of solar and wind generation capacity is on track to increase significantly over the next three years (i.e. by September 2024). FERC notes that there may be as much as 168,601 MW of new solar capacity in the pipeline, with 51,758 MW classified as “highly probable additions,” offset by just 92 MW of projected “retirements.” Just a year ago, FERC reported 127,244 MW of solar in its three-year pipeline with 32,801 MW classified as “high probability”. In addition, new wind capacity could total 73,453 MW by September 2024, with 22,957 MW being “highly likely” and only 151 MW of retirements expected.
“High probability” generation capacity additions for solar and wind combined, minus the expected retirements, reflect an expected net increase of 74,472 MW. In comparison, the net growth for natural gas is only 14,535 MW. For example, solar and wind together are predicted to deliver more than five times the net new generation capacity of natural gas over the next three years…not to mention over 50 times the net new capacity of nuclear power (just 1,377 MW).
If only FERC’s latest “high-probability” projections come true, renewables should supply more than 30 percent (30.04%) of the country’s total available installed generation capacity by September 2024, with utility-scale solar and wind powering well. are 8.88% and 11.8% respectively.
“Whether you compare solar growth to last year or ten years ago or three years after that, the bottom line is the same — it was and remains explosive … and the wind didn’t lag far,” said Ken Bossong. , executive director of the SUN DAY campaign. “And this growth can only accelerate if recent COP26 commitments are met and the proposed federal Build Back Better legislation is passed into law.”
News item from the Sunday campaign