Solar met 2.7% of U.S. electric demand during the first half of 2019

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The share of solar in the country’s overall electricity mix continues to rise, as revealed by the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

We crunched the numbers from EIA’s recently released Electric Power Monthly report covering June 2019, and found that solar represented 2.7% of all electricity generation in the United States during the first half of 2019, up from 2.4% in the first half of 2018.

According to EIA, the output of the nation’s rooftop and large-scale solar plants rose only 9% over this period, however electricity use as measured by sales to end-customers fell 1.9%.

As there are limited imports and exports from the United States to other nations (net imports from Canada met around 1% of demand last year), solar also met 2.7% of all electric demand. Wind met 7.7% of electric demand during the first half of the year, meaning that wind and solar together met 10.4% of the nation’s electric demand.

It remains to be seen if solar and wind represent more than 10% of power for the whole year, given both increases in electricity use driven by air conditioning in July and August and seasonal patterns of wind output.

 

The West leads by a wide margin

As always, some states had much higher portions than others. In-state solar met 17.4% of California’s electric demand in the first half of 2019, cementing its position as the leading state for integration of higher levels of solar.

Hawaii was not far behind, with solar meeting 14.5% of demand. This portion is much higher on the island of Kaua’i, where solar met more than 1/4 of all electric demand last year. Nevada was near the level of Hawaii, with solar meeting 14.1% of demand.

After this there is a fairly large gap. The only states even close to meeting 10% of demand with solar are Arizona, at 9.6% of demand in the first half of 2019, and Utah at 8.2% of demand. Despite an impressive build-out over the last few years, in-state solar is still only meeting 5.5% of demand in North Carolina – around the same level as Vermont and Massachusetts.

At pv magazine we calculate the volume of solar generation in states as a portion of demand, not total generation. When calculated by generation, states such as Massachusetts and Vermont look much more impressive; however these states also import much of their power, and as such looking at solar as a portion of in-state generation can overstate actual progress.

This year solar markets are booming in Texas, Florida, the South and the Midwest, however these regions are still well behind the West when it comes to overall solar deployment, and it will take a number of years of steady growth to match the progress that has been seen in states like California and Hawaii.

And while we don’t expect any big increases in solar generation in the second half of 2019 due to the market interruption caused by the Section 201 tariffs, there is currently a record 9.8 GWdc of large-scale solar under construction and as such we are expecting more of an increase in 2020 figures.