U.S. New Power Report — 71% of New Power from Solar & Wind Power

Solar and wind power continue to dominate new power capacity in the United States. July was actually a poor month relatively speaking, with just 56% of new power capacity coming from renewable energy sources due to a notable fossil gas (aka "natural gas") capacity addition, but for the first 7 months of the year as a whole, solar and wind power accounted for 71% of new US power capacity and renewables overall accounted for ... 71%. Okay, being more precise, solar and wind accounted for 70.6% while renewables overall accounted for 71.0%. Clearly, solar and wind power dominate the renewable energy market these days in terms of new power plants — and lead the industry as a whole.

The bad news is that the fossil gas share of installations bumped up in 2022 compared to 2021. In 2020, fossil gas accounted for 37% of new power capacity in the first seven months of the year. That dropped to 14% in the first seven months of 2021. It has popped up again, this time to 29% of the market. Why are people still turning to gas?

You can also look at the big big picture — total installed power capacity. That takes much longer to change since most power plants last decades. (One caveat: we don't have rooftop solar data for this tally.) Renewables grew from 23.2% of the market in July 2020 to 25.3% in July 2021 to 27% in July 2022. That's impressive market growth in this context.

Just looking at solar and wind power (combined), they grew from 13.2% of the country's installed capacity in July 2020 to 15.4% in July 2021 to 17.3% in July 2022. It's progress. Is it enough progress? That's a topic for another story. Notably, though, while this may seem slow to some of us, it does lend itself to a forecast of 33% of all US power capacity coming from solar and wind power plants by July 2030 (not even including rooftop solar).

The increase in share of installed power capacity comes in big part from solar and wind power dominating new capacity additions, but it also comes from retirements of other power plants. Note that coal dropped from 243.54 GW of capacity in July 2020 to 220.30 GW of capacity in July 2022. That's a massive drop in generating capacity. Nuclear dropped a little bit and oil dropped a little bit, while fossil gas increased in capacity by more than 15 GW.

Overall, non-rooftop solar power capacity grew by more than 27 GW and wind grew by more than 30 GW in those two years.

How do these trends look to you?

I have to note a strange thing in the data that I just noticed. The monthly numbers from FERC regarding solar power (large-scale solar power projects) don't add up to the year-to-date new power capacity for solar. That issue starts in February (which implies that 1,079 MW of solar were installed in January despite the January report showing only 95 MW were installed), and I don't see any explanation for it. So, in short, something confusing is going on here.

Also see previous US power capacity reports.

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