While the U.S. solar market continues to grow rapidly, solar generation still represented a tiny share of the nation’s overall electricity, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA)
The latest edition of EIA’s Electric Power Monthly shows that the portion of electricity that the nation gets from solar grew nearly 40% in 2016, from around 1% of total generation to 1.4%. Wind is likewise growing, with the share of electricity from wind rising from 4.7% in 2015 to 5.5% of all generation last year.
And while these are relatively low shares, solar and wind made up more than 60% of new generation put online last year by capacity.
Boosted by the growing share of solar and wind, 2016 serves as the second year where non-hydro renewable sources generated more electricity than hydroelectric plants. This likewise brought the overall share of renewable energy in the nation’s generation to 15.3% during the year.
The share of both solar and all renewables in the United States is well behind that of most nations in Western Europe, and this is largely because solar and wind deployment in concentrated in a few states and regions. Hawaii, California, North Carolina and Arizona and New Jersey boast higher than average portions of solar in their electricity mixes, however despite recent progress many states are still behind, including large energy users like Texas, Florida and Illinois.
Wind development has likewise been highly regional. Last year Texas got 15% of its power from wind, and California and states in the Great Plains including Iowa have been national leaders. However wind development is still limited east of the Mississippi, especially in the U.S. South which has poor land-based wind resources.
This may be changing, and New York in particular has seen a boom in solar deployment in the last few years. Also, it is important to note that generation figures always lag installations. With an estimated 14.6 GW of solar installed in 2016, 2017 would see at least 2% of U.S. electricity generation from solar, even if no projects were put online this year.