Utility-scale solar and wind are on track to provide 25% of the US’s installed electrical generating capacity within three years, according to newly released FERC data.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” (with data through May 31, 2023) reports that wind now accounts for 11.63% of total installed generating capacity, and utility-scale solar provides another 6.86%.

Over the next three years – by May 2026 – FERC anticipates “high probability additions” of solar to provide another 80,087 megawatts (MW), while wind is expected to expand by 19,816 MW.

Assuming that materializes in three years, wind energy would then account for 12.43% of installed capacity, and utility-scale solar would provide another 12.41%. And that doesn’t even include generating capacity provided by small-scale, distributed solar, such as rooftop solar.

Solar and wind’s share of US electrical generating capacity could actually 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 214,022 MW, while wind could grow by 66,065 MW.

What’s more, recent history suggests that solar and wind growth is outpacing FERC’s predictions. 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 three-year forecast for those sources is now 22.5% higher.

There’s already evidence of that prospective growth. For the first five months of 2023, wind and solar accounted for 51.07% of the new capacity additions this year, 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%. The balance, other than 2 MW from oil, was provided by natural gas.

SUN DAY Campaign executive director Ken Bossong, who reviewed and analyzed FERC’s latest data, noted:

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.

But in light of renewable energy growth rates of recent years, those numbers may very well prove to be an underestimate.

Read more: Renewable deployment surge puts world on track for net zero pathway – study

Photo: “Gray County Wind Farm” by jimmywayne is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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