Utility-scale solar and wind power seem to be on track to provide a quarter of the nation’s installed capacity within three years, according to the SUN DAY campaign, which examines newly released data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The latest monthly magazine “Latest information on energy infrastructureThe FERC report (with data through May 31, 2023) notes that wind power now accounts for 11.63% of total installed capacity, with utility-scale solar power providing a further 6.86%.
However, the FERC expects a “high probability addition” of solar power to provide an additional 80,087 MW over the next three years (i.e., by May 2026), while wind power will expand by 19,816 MW. Assuming that happens, wind will account for his 12.43% of installed capacity in three years, and utility-scale solar will account for a further 12.41%. Also, this does not include capacity from small-scale distributed (e.g. rooftop) solar PV.
Given FERC’s forecasts for hydro, geothermal and biomass, renewable energy sources will grow from 28.01% of current installed capacity to 33.85% by May 2026, or more than one-third.
If new capacity exceeds the FERC’s “high probability of addition” projections, the share of solar and wind in U.S. generating capacity could actually be much higher. The agency has suggested that the amount of solar and wind power in the pipeline over a three-year period could be nearly three times the “high probability additions” combined. Solar power could increase by 214,022 MW and wind power by 66,065 MW.
Moreover, recent history suggests that solar and wind growth are outpacing the FERC’s forecast of “high probability additions.” one year ago, Reported by FERC Within three years, there will be 18,711 MW and 62,835 MW of ‘likely additions’ of wind and solar power, respectively. FERC’s latest three-year projections for these sources are now 22.5% higher.
Signs of that expected growth may already be evident. In the first five months of 2023, wind and solar accounted for more than half (51.07%) of new generation capacity this year, with 4,460 MW of solar and 2.645 MW of wind. New generation capacity provided by hydropower (254 MW), geothermal power (37 MW) and biomass power (29 MW) brought the share of renewable energy in the new power generation capacity to a combined 53.38%. The remainder (excluding 2 MW by oil) was supplied by natural gas.
Despite the recent addition of natural gas, FERC forecasts a net reduction in natural gas generating capacity of 1,564 MW over the next three years, on top of a 19,966 MW reduction in coal generating capacity. Oil and nuclear capacity are also projected to fall by 569 MW and 123 MW respectively.
If FERC’s “high probability” projections are realized by May 2026, the share of US fossil fuel installations in total capacity will decline over the next three years: natural gas – 41.67% (from 44.37% in May 2023), coal – 14.05% (from 16.49%), oil – 2.68% (from 2.89%). Nuclear power will also drop from the current 8.07% to 7.60% in May 2026.
“Currently, wind and solar are each poised to provide one-eighth of the country’s installed capacity within three years, and all renewables combined will account for more than one-third,” said Ken Bosson, executive director of the SUN DAY campaign. “However, given the growth rate of renewable energy in recent years, it is very likely that these figures will prove to be an underestimate.”
Notice of SUN DAY campaign