Solar & Wind = 99.9% of New US Power Capacity in April, 93.9% In May

Solar power and wind power continue to dominate new power capacity additions in the United States. Following the trend of recent months — or years, to some extent — almost 100% of new power capacity additions in April came from solar and wind, and 94% of new power capacity additions in May came from solar and wind. (Note that these figures exclude rooftop solar power, so the numbers would be even higher if that was added in.) Here are the charts:

(Yes, 1 measly megawatt of extra oil power production capacity blocked a 100% figure in April.)

If you look at the first 4 or 5 months of the year, the story is similar. There’s a bit of new natural gas power capacity, but solar and wind power dominate. Renewables accounted for 94.4% of all new US power capacity in January–May 2021. That is up considerably from the 51.1% of the same period in 2020 and the 41.7% of the same period in 2019.

With all of that great news regarding new power capacity additions, it’s easy to get a little excited. Unfortunately, the problem is that it takes a long time to update and transition the power grid. At the end of May, this is how the total installed base of large power plants in the US broke out:

Wind and solar combined still haven’t caught up to coal. Even wind and hydropower combined haven’t. And natural gas is in a league of its own and won’t be caught for many years.

The next two charts cover trends in total power capacity over the past 3 years. Renewables as a whole, led by solar and wind, are rising strongly while coal has been dropping a step or two each year. Still, though, look at how much further natural gas, coal, and oil need to drop.

While solar power continues to grow fast in the United States, the expanding market and constantly evolving technologies raise questions about where, when, and how it’s most effective to invest in further solar power growth. Where do you get the most bang for your buck? What technology combos are the best these days in different regions? And how do you maximize the output of a project after it’s already been installed?

For anyone looking to maximize output from a solar power project already in the ground, looking to manage a fast-growing portfolio of solar projects, or simply trying to figure out how best to attract customers in a hyper-competitive world, I think you could find out coming webinar on these topics and more to be truly helpful. You can register for the webinar here if this sounds up your alley (it’s free).


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