In its short-term energy outlook, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts solar capacity to grow by around 21 GW in 2022 and 25 GW in 2023 in the United States. The country is also expected to install 7 GW of new wind capacity in 2022 and another 4 GW in 2023.
EIA said most of the growth in the U.S. power generation in 2022 and 2023 is expected to come from new renewable energy sources, shifting the focus from fossil fuels. The power sector had 63 GW of operational solar capacity and 135 GW of wind capacity at the end of 2021.
The forecast suggested the share of non-hydro power renewable sources, including solar and wind, will increase from 13% in 2021 to 17% in 2023. Power generation from natural gas will decline to 34% by 2023 from 37% in 2021, and the coal share will fall to 22% from 23%.
Although the continued decline in natural gas prices, the report notes that renewable generators’ operating costs will remain lower than natural gas-fired projects. It said regions with the most significant increase in renewables capacities like Texas and the Midwest regions would experience the most significant reductions in natural gas generation.
According to EIA, the share of solar power generating capacity operated by the power sector at the end of 2021 increased over 20 times higher than at the end of 2011. The wind power capacity has grown more than twice in the last decade.
On the other hand, the power generation mix witnessed a steady decline in coal-fired projects since their peak in 2007 and the increase in the use of natural gas due to its sustained low prices. However, the trend reversed in 2021 as the cost of natural gas delivered to the U.S. averaged $4.88 per million British thermal units, more than double the average price in 2020. The power generation share of natural gas declined to 37% in 2021 from 39% in 2020, while the share of coal grew to 23% for the first time since 2014.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie report, the U.S. solar market installed a record 5.7 GW of solar capacity in the second quarter of 2021, a 45% increase compared to the 3.5 GW installed in the same period last year.
Mercom had earlier reported that SEIA increased its target for Solar+ Decade to account for 30% of the overall power generation in the U.S. by 2030. The previous target was 20% by 2030.