Renewables now second only to natural gas in capacity, generation


Renewables comprised nearly all the new electrical generation capacity added in the U.S. in the first half of this year, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and reported by the SUN DAY campaign. About 92% of new power sources added this year were solar or wind energy.

Coal was overcome as a generation source as renewables produced 2.2% more electricity January through June, said the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Renewables now move into second place for both capacity and actual power generation, according to FERC.

Solar and wind had a nearly equal share, with 5,279 MW and 5,617 MW added, respectively. In June, solar and wind were the only sources of new capacity additions, according to FERC.

Solar and wind combined generation surpassed coal this year.

Image: EIA Data Browser

Renewables have now crossed the 25% threshold of total U.S. available installed generating capacity. A year ago, renewable resources represented 23% of the total.

Utility-scale solar is just shy of 5% of the nation’s available capacity, though this figure does not include distributed solar such as rooftop systems. Wind energy now stands at 10.4% of total capacity.

EIA reported a 25.3% growth in solar, including distributed solar, compared to the first six months of 2020. Wind grew by 10% over the same period.

Actual power provided by solar and wind in first-half 2021 landed at 13.7%, which represents a 14.1% bump from last year’s figure, said EIA.

FERC data suggested renewables are on a path to increase over the next three years. Capacity additions marked as “high probability,” minus anticipated plant retirements, project a net increase of more than 44,000 MW of solar and 21,000 MW of wind. By comparison, natural gas is expected to grow by around 13,200 MW.

If these numbers hold, by June 2024 the U.S. will have nearly 30% of its power sourced from renewables, said FERC.

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