Utility-scale solar and wind each added more generating capacity than natural gas during the first nine months of 2022, according to a SUN DAY Campaign review of FERC data. FERC’s latest three-year forecast suggests that installed natural gas capacity will begin to decline by 2025 while solar and wind continue to rapidly expand.
Solar (6,751 MW) and wind (6,328 MW) each provided more new generating capacity during the first three-quarters of this year than did natural gas (6,086 MW). Combined with capacity additions by geothermal (90 MW), biomass (22 MW) and hydropower (14 MW), renewable energy sources accounted for 13,205 MW or 68.4% of the 19,316 MW of new generation put into service this year.
Besides natural gas, the balance came from nuclear power (17 MW) and oil (8 MW). No new capacity was reported for 2022 from coal.
In addition, solar provided 82.7% (487 MW) of the new capacity reported in September alone. This includes the 275.0-MW Noble Solar & Storage Project in Denton County, Texas, and the 150.0-MW Wood County Solar Project in Wood County, Wisconsin, among others. Also added in September was 99 MW of new natural gas capacity and 3 MW of new hydropower.
These recent additions bring renewable energy’s share of total U.S. available installed generating capacity up to 26.96%:
- wind – 11.23%
- hydropower – 8.05%
- solar – 6.14%
- biomass – 1.22%
- geothermal – 0.32%.
For comparison, five years earlier, renewables’ share was 19.84%. Ten years ago, it was 14.79%.
FERC reports that there may be as much as 206,184 MW of new solar capacity in the pipeline with 71,617 MW classified as “high probability” additions and no offsetting “retirements.” The “high probability” additions alone would nearly double utility-scale solar’s current installed capacity of 77,210 MW, while successful completion of all projects in the pipeline would nearly quadruple it.
Arguably more startling is FERC’s forecast for natural gas capacity over the next three years. FERC anticipates 107 units of “high probability” additions by natural gas by September 2025 totaling 17,062 MW of capacity. However, there will also be “retirements” of 130 units totaling 17,489 MW. If that materializes, installed natural gas capacity would actually decline, very possibly indicating that natural gas generating capacity has now peaked.
FERC expects new nuclear additions to total 2,200 MW (two new reactors being constructed at the Vogtle nuclear plant site near Waynesboro, Georgia). However, FERC also projects that nuclear retirements over the next three years will total 2,323 MW. In addition, FERC reports no new coal generating capacity in the three-year pipeline but 19,106 MW of expected retirements. Oil generating capacity is projected to fall by 1,710 MW as well.
“FERC’s latest data may be the most dramatic published thus far this year,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “A sharp increase in FERC’s three-year forecast for wind and solar within just the last month coupled with an apparent peaking of natural gas seem to confirm that the nation has finally turned a corner on its transition to sustainable energy sources.”
News item from SUN DAY
We must also keep in mind that FERC is quoting utility scale generation projects and it seems none of the Government’s reporting agencies is (really) keeping track of private building and residential solar PV and microgrid installs throughout the year. FERC, EIA and DOE seem to be focused on utility scale and not the overall aggregation of millions of 6kWp to 12kWp solar PV arrays on the roofs of homes across the U.S. and what the “aggregate” efficiency and energy savings these systems provide to the grid and local loading of the grid in any random community across the U.S.. Even groups like SEIA seem to be more concerned about utility scale programs and not so much about getting accurate aggregate changes in the grid from individual solar PV systems on homes. The 2016 Lidar study by NREL found 67.x million viable solar PV roofs in the U.S., this didn’t seem to be broken down into actual square feet of viable solar PV area from these 67 million roofs. It could well be that a specific percentage of these roofs were capable of 100kWp to 2MWp solar PV arrays. The Lidar would not have caught a couple of acres of parking space around these large commercial and industrial buildings either. (IF) one put 8.5kWp on 67 million roofs, representing about, 500 to 530 square feet of array and using a conservative 4 sun hours a day on average, one can generate right at 2.3TWh of electricity a day. (IF) these 67 million viable solar PV arrays were to store 20kWh/day, then one would have, on average, 1.3TWh/day of energy storage to use at night on these same 67 million viable solar PV buildings. Now what is the actual efficiency savings for having 67 million solar PV roofs and on site ESS, compared to the amount of centralized solar PV and wind generation farms needed to supply the same energy to these same buildings?
The individual consumer is like a drop of rain. The drops begin a small flow that creates the stream, that flows into the river and down the rivers to create an ocean of drops to make a sea. What (WE DO) matters, just as what (WE DON’T DO) matters in the flow of change.
Michael Martin says
right on, Solarman! Just like the IT transition to distributed computing (as evidenced by the computers/phones most of us use most of the time) the “drops” of distributed solar are forming the low-cost, reliable, clean river to power the planet! I concur with more data collection, analysis and reporting to get the more complete picture of solar’s impact…and VALUE!
They use the seia data. Which tracks their membership installs. Which gets most of it since most solar installers are members of the seia. They also get some data from utilities from their net metering types of programs.
Otherwise must home installs traditionally are just considered efficiency since they are a drop in the bucket.
It is too costly and cumbersome to bother to track it. It would cost millions to try and track it all. Money which could be used to install more solar. It is also pretty big brotherish and might step on privacy laws.