Wind and Solar to Account 25% of US Generating Capacity by 2026: FERC

Highlights :

  • Wind will account for 12.43 per cent of installed capacity in three years while utility-scale solar will provide another 12.41 per cent by 2026
Wind and Solar to Account 25% of US Generating Capacity by 2026: FERC Solar Exports From India to USA Will Keep Rising Till 2025: IEEFA

The utility-scale solar and wind of the US appear to be on track to provide a quarter of the nation’s installed electrical generating capacity within three years, as per a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data newly released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

According to the most recent “Energy Infrastructure Update” report by FERC, as of May 31, 2023, wind power accounts for 11.63 per cent of the overall installed generating capacity. Additionally, utility-scale solar contributes an additional 6.86 per cent to the total installed capacity.

However, over the next three years, by May 2026, FERC anticipates a high probability of solar additions to provide another 80,087 MW while wind is expected to expand by 19,816 MW. If that happens, wind would account for 12.43 per cent of installed capacity in three years while utility-scale solar would provide another 12.41 per cent. This excludes the generating capacity provided by small-scale, distributed solar, such as rooftop solar.

Factoring in FERC’s forecasts for hydropower, geothermal, and biomass, renewable energy sources would expand from today’s 28.01 per cent of installed generating capacity to 33.85 per cent – i.e., over a third – by May 2026.

Solar and wind’s share of the US generating capacity could be substantially higher if new capacity exceeds FERC’s forecast of ‘high probability additions’. The agency indicates that the amount of solar and wind in the three-year pipeline could be nearly three times higher than the total of the high probability additions. Solar could add 2,14,022 MW while wind could grow by 66,065 MW.

Moreover, recent history suggests that solar and wind growth is outpacing FERC’s predictions for high-probability additions. A year ago, FERC reported high-probability additions for wind and solar within three years of 18,711-MW and 62,835-MW respectively. FERC’s latest 3-year forecast for these sources is now 22.5 per cent higher.

Signs of Prospective Growth Evident

For the first five months of 2023, wind and solar accounted for more than half of the new capacity additions this year – 51.07 per cent – comprised of 4,460 MW of solar and 2.645 MW of wind. New capacity provided by hydropower (254 MW), geothermal (37 MW), and biomass (29 MW) brought renewables’ combined share of new capacity up to 53.38 per cent. The balance (other than 2 MW from oil) was provided by natural gas.

Notwithstanding the recent natural gas additions, FERC foresees a net decline of 1,564 MW in natural gas generating capacity over the next three years in addition to a drop of 19,966 MW in coal capacity. Oil and nuclear capacity are also foreseen to fall – by 569 MW and 123 MW respectively.

Should just FERC’s “high probability” forecasts materialize, by May 2026, installed US fossil fuels’ share of total capacity will drop over the next three years: natural gas – 41.67 per cent (from 44.37 per cent in May 2023), coal – 14.05 per cent (from 16.49 per cent), and oil – 2.68 per cent (from 2.89 per cent). Nuclear power will also fall from 8.07 per cent today to 7.60 per cent in May 2026.

“Wind and solar are now poised to each provide an eighth of the nation’s installed generating capacity within three years while all renewables combined will account for over a third,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s Executive Director Ken Bossong. “But in light of renewable energy growth rates of recent years, those numbers may very well prove to be an under-estimate.”

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