Solar Makes Up 37% Of New U.S. Large-scale Generation In 2016

We all knew that 2016 was going to be a very good year for the U.S. solar market  ; however no one could say exactly how good.

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) produced a post which provides some of the first concrete numbers for the year. EIA estimates that when all planned projects come online, the United States will have installed 9.5 GW of utility-scale solar over the course of 2016.

unlike the data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) monthly Energy Infrastructure updates, EIA’s latest report is in line with what the solar industry expects. Mercom Capital GTM Research have forecast that 13-14 GW of both utility-scale distributed solar will be installed in the United States this year.

EIA says that the states with the most new utility-scale solar this year are California at 3.9 GW, North Carolina at 1.1 GW Nevada at around 900 MW.

The total 9.5 GW of solar represents 37% of all new large-scale generation which is coming online this year by capacity. The nation is also installing 6.8 GW of wind, which means that wind solar together will represent 63% of new large-scale capacity, if the other ~4 GW of distributed solar that GTM Research expects were included this number would be even higher.

Solar  wind still make up a small portion of the overall electricity generation in the United States. In the first nine months of 2016 both utility-scale distributed solar provided 1.4% of the nation’s electricity, with wind providing 5%. However, the output of plants put online this year next will boost these numbers in 2017.

Natural gas still represents a significant portion of new capacity, as it has for the last 20 years. The nation installed 8.0 GW of natural gas plants in 2016, which represents 31% of new capacity; however as many of these plants will run at higher utilization rates it is likely that they will contribute a larger share of electricity to the nation’s mix.

Additionally, in April the Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor was commissioned in Tennessee, adding 1.1 GW of capacity. This is the first new nuclear reactor to come online in the United States in 20 years, but two more nuclear power plants in the South will add additional capacity in the next few years. Even when these plants are added the amount of nuclear capacity that is being lost as older plants retire dwarfs new U.S. nuclear capacity.