New US power capacity in the first two months of 2021 came almost exclusively from wind and solar power plants, data from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) shows. Looking at large-scale power capacity added to the grids across the country (which does not include rooftop solar power), 99.7% came from wind and solar power.
This continues a trend from recent years (scroll through our US Electricity Capacity Reports for more historical perspective). Solar and wind power are simply the cheapest options for new electricity generation capacity. This dominance doesn’t come from altruism or from climate leadership alone. 99.7% or 100% dominance comes from the fact that solar and wind power are cheap, cheap, cheap. And cheap some more. So, while this is just the first two months of 2021 and one large fossil fuel power plant could go online at any moment (well, not really, but you get the point), expect the same trend as the year trods on.
Looking at the big picture, though, we can see that solar and wind power are far from dominating total installed power capacity. Natural gas is king in that respect, and coal is queen. Though, wind, water, and solar together are higher than coal, only trailing natural gas. Also, it’s worth remembering that some portion of that installed natural gas capacity is from peaker plants that seldom run. (Unfortunately, I do not see the split between peaker plants and steady-state baseload plants indicated anywhere. However, I will soon publish our next US Electricity Generation Report, which captures the core matter that we actually care about — electricity generation.)
From February 2019 to February 2021, solar power has gone from 3.2% of installed US power capacity (again, this excludes rooftop solar power capacity) to 4.6% of capacity, wind power has gone from 8.1% to 10.1%, coal has gone from 21.9% to 19.3%, and natural gas has just gone from 44.1% to 44.3%.
That basically covers recent and somewhat recent power capacity changes in the United States of America. Any other highlights jump out to you? Any lingering questions?
Next, I’ll work on producing a fresh US Electricity Generation Report.