Renewable Energy Provides 99% of New Generating Capacity in Both April & YTD

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Solar + Wind Now Exceed 20% of Total U.S. Generating Capacity

A review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reveals that the mix of renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided nearly all new U.S. generating capacity in April as well as year-to-date (YTD). Renewable energy sources are now nearly 30% of total capacity. Moreover, for the eighth month in a row, solar was the largest new source of generating capacity.

Renewables exceeded 99% of new generating capacity in both April and YTD:

In its latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” (with data through April 30, 2024), FERC says 33 “units” of solar totaling 1,324 megawatts (MW) were placed into service in April along with four units of wind (737-MW). Combined they accounted for 99.2% of all new generating capacity. Natural gas provided the balance – a mere 16-MW.

For the first four months of 2024, solar and wind added 7,899-MW and 1,825-MW respectively. Combined with 3-MW of new biomass and 1-MW of hydropower, renewables YTD were again 99.2% of capacity added. The balance consisted of 67-MW of gas, 5-MW of oil, and 3-MW of “other.”

Solar was 80.6% of new capacity in the first third of 2024:

The new solar capacity added from January through April this year was more than double the solar capacity (3,777-MW) added during the same period last year. YTD, solar accounted for 80.6% of all new generation placed into service in the first third of 2024.

New wind capacity YTD accounted for most of the balance – 18.6% but was slightly less than that added in the first third of 2023 (1,977-MW).

Solar has now been the largest source of new generating capacity for eight months straight: September 2023 – April 2024. For six of those eight months, wind took second place.

Solar is in fourth place for share of U.S. generating capacity:

The latest capacity additions have brought solar’s share of total available installed utility-scale (i.e., >1-MW) generating capacity up to 8.56%, further expanding its lead over hydropower (7.84%). Wind is currently at 11.77%. With the inclusion of biomass (1.13%) and geothermal (0.32%), renewables now claim a 29.62% share of total U.S. utility-scale generating capacity.

Installed utility-scale solar has now moved into fourth place – behind natural gas (43.58%), coal (15.79%) and wind – for its share of generating capacity after having recently surpassed that of nuclear power (8.06%). [1]

Solar plus wind is now more than a fifth of U.S. generating capacity:

The combined capacities of just solar and wind now constitute more than one-fifth (20.33%) of the nation’s total available installed utility-scale generating capacity.

However, a third or more of U.S. solar capacity is in the form of small-scale (e.g., rooftop) systems that is not reflected in FERC’s data. Including that additional solar capacity would bring the share provided by solar + wind closer to a quarter of the nation’s total. [2]

Solar is on track to surpass the individual capacities of wind and coal:

FERC reports that net “high probability” additions of solar between May 2024 and April 2027 total 88,096-MW – an amount more than triple the forecast net “high probability” additions for wind (23,777-MW), the second fastest growing resource.

FERC also foresees growth for hydropower (554-MW), geothermal (400-MW), and biomass (88-MW). On the other hand, there is no new nuclear capacity in FERC’s three-year forecast while coal, natural gas, and oil are projected to contract by 20,177-MW, 3,823-MW, and 2,016-MW respectively.

If FERC’s current “high probability” additions materialize, by May 1, 2027, solar will account for more than one-seventh (14.39%) of the nation’s installed utility-scale generating capacity. That would be greater than either coal (13.33%) or wind (12.75%) and substantially more than either nuclear power (7.55%) or hydropower (7.39%).

The mix of all renewables would account for 35.92% of total available installed utility-scale generating capacity – rapidly approaching that of natural gas (40.56%) – with solar and wind constituting more than three-quarters of the installed renewable energy capacity.

The combined capacities of all renewables could exceed natural gas within three years:

As noted, FERC’s data do not account for the capacity of small-scale solar systems. If that is factored in, within three years, total U.S. solar capacity (i.e., small-scale plus utility-scale) would likely approach – and possibly surpass – 300 gigawatts (GW). In turn, the mix of all renewables would then exceed 40% of total installed capacity while natural gas’ share would drop to about 37%.

Moreover, FERC reports that there may actually be as much as 212,351-MW of net new solar additions in the current three-year pipeline in addition to 72,177-MW of new wind and 7,695-MW of new hydropower. Thus, renewables’ share could be even greater by mid-spring 2027.

The combination of wind and solar is now more than 20% of U.S. generating capacity and may be closer to a quarter if one adds in small-scale solar. Including distributed solar, the mix of all renewables is now poised to surpass natural gas capacity within the next three years.

Source:

FERC’s 7-page “Energy Infrastructure Update for April 2024” was released on June 10, 2024, and can be found at: https://cms.ferc.gov/media/energy-infrastructure-update-april-2024.

For the information cited in this update, see the tables entitled “New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion),” “Total Available Installed Generating Capacity,” and “Generation Capacity Additions and Retirements.”

Notes:

[1] Generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Fossil fuels and nuclear power generally have higher “capacity factors” than do wind and solar. For example, EIA reports capacity factors in 2023 for nuclear power and natural gas were 93.1% and 58.8% respectively while those for wind and utility-scale solar were 33.5% and 23.3%. See: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=table_6_… and https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=table_6_…

[2] See Table ES1.B of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report issued on May 23, 2024. For the first quarter of 2024, EIA reports “estimated total solar” to be 55,038 thousand megawatt-hours including 17,330 thousand megawatt-hours of “estimated small-scale solar photovoltaic” – i.e., 31.48%. Because small-scale solar has a lower capacity factor than does utility-scale solar, relatively more capacity is needed than its share of actual generation. Hence, the combined capacity of small-scale systems nationwide is estimated to be a bit more than a third of all solar capacity.

The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1992 to support a rapid transition to 100% reliance on sustainable energy technologies as a cost-effective alternative to nuclear power and fossil fuels and as a solution to climate change. Follow on Twitter (or “X”): @SunDayCampaign  

Courtesy of @SunDayCampaign, By Ken Bossong.


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