U.S. solar generation has grown 12x in a decade


The past decade has shown a rise in renewable energy from an alternative source to an increasingly important feature in the United States energy mix. Environment America showed in its Renewables on the Rise annual report that solar now generates 12 times as much electricity as it did in 2013.

The U.S. produced enough solar energy to power 19 million homes in 2022. Cumulatively, over 153 GW of solar capacity has been installed through the first half of 2023. And the growth has only begun to ramp up. Over 32 GW of installations are expected in 2023, representing a 52% growth over 2022 totals. 

Solar represented 54% of all new electricity-generating capacity additions in the first quarter of 2023, according to Wood Mackenzie, which projects that cumulative installations will more than double by 2028 to 375 GW.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) forecasts strong growth in solar for years to come. It expects over 83 GW of “high probability” solar capacity additions through August 2026. This dwarfs the 4 GW of natural gas additions expected through that date. 

FERC said that the 83 GW of “high probability” solar additions may be quite conservative. There is over 214 GW of solar additions in the three-year project pipeline. 

Other renewables are rising alongside solar as well. Environment America reports that the U.S. sourced nearly 17% of its electricity from solar, wind, and geothermal sources in 2022. This is up from just over 5% in 2013. Fourteen states produced more than 30% of total electricity from those three emissions-free sources in 2022, up from just two states in 2013.

Over that period, wind energy has grown 2.6 times, achieving enough generation to power the equivalent of 41 million typical U.S homes.

Nearly one million plug-in electric vehicles were sold in 2022, a nearly 10x increase from 2013. Electric vehicle chargers have also scaled in that time, reaching 151,000 new installations in 2022, an 18-fold increase.

Energy storage is also scaling to support the intermittent cycles of renewable energy generation. The U.S. had 8.9 GW of battery energy storage at the end of 2022, which is 60 times more than 2013 totals. Energy storage grew an astonishing 85% year-over-year from 2021 to 2022.

Alongside the buildout of renewables is a push for improved energy efficiency. Environment America said efficiency improvements installed in 2021 will save 300 TWh of power over the lifetimes of the installed technologies. These efficiency savings alone save the equivalent power demand of 28 million homes per year.

Environment America released a state-by-state dashboard for tracking these improvements through the years. The Renewables on the Rise dashboard can be viewed here.

Image: Environment America

“This incredible growth will be key to achieving our vision of a clean energy future — one in which we can all live greener, healthier lives in a world powered solely by clean, renewable energy,” said Environment America.

A report from Rhodium Group and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) showed total investment in clean energy, clean transportation, building electrification and carbon management reached $213 billion over the last year (from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023).

The $213 billion invested represents a 37% leap over 2021/2022 investments of $155 billion. Clean investment continues to strongly increase each year. In 2018/2019, total investments reached $81 billion, and it has climbed each year since.

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