Renewables provide 2.5 GW of new generation capacity per month


In its latest analysis of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Energy Infrastructure Update and the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Short-Term Energy Outlook, the SUN DAY Campaign, a non-profit research and educational organization, has found that solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, etc.) are now adding more than 2,250 MW of new generating capacity each month.

Specifically, utility-scale renewable facilities, which are defined by FERC as being larger than 1 MW in capacity, added 18,255-MW of new generating capacity during the first ten months of 2021, for an average of 1,826-MW per month. Distributed resources, which are defined by EIA as being smaller than 1 MW in capacity, have been forecast to grow by about 5,100 MW across the whole of 2021, good for an average of about 425 MW per month.

In all, total utility-scale renewables plus rooftop solar (the majority of distributed resources are rooftop solar) are now providing an average of over 2,250 MW of new capacity each month. The 9,604 MW of new utility-scale solar reported by FERC for the first ten months of 2021 is the most ever added in the U.S. in a 10-month period and dwarfs the 6,516 MW added during the same time period in 2020, or the 3,758 MW added in 2019.

Due in part to these impressive monthly additions, SUN DAY outlines that renewables now provide roughly a quarter of total U.S. available installed generating capacity, at 25.47%. This share is significantly greater than that of coal, which represents 18.77%, and more than three times that of nuclear power, which represents 8.32%.

“The breath-taking pace at which solar and wind are adding new capacity explains why renewable sources combined have eclipsed the generating capacity of nuclear power and surpassed that of coal as well as whittled down the lead of natural gas,” noted Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, Ken Bossong.

A year ago, renewables’ share was 23.31%. Five years ago, it was 18.58%, and a decade earlier it was 14.12%, according to SUN DAY.

SUN DAY’s analysis attributes this overall renewable expansion to a nearly threefold increase in wind’s share of installed generating capacity and a 35-fold increase in solar’s share. Wind is now 10.54% of the nation’s generating capacity, while utility-scale solar sits at 5.21%, which is up from 0.15% in October 2011 and does not include distributed solar.

“Conservatively, over the next three years, renewables should expand from about a quarter of the nation’s generating capacity today to at least thirty percent and probably more,” said Bossong.

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