Solar and wind eclipse coal in the US energy mix



According to the non-profit group SUN DAY campaignA review of recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) shows that wind and solar combined now provide more generation capacity and produce more electricity than coal.

In the first two months of this year, solar power generation (including small-scale distributed systems) grew by 6.7% compared to the same two-month period in 2022 – faster than any other energy source. This was largely due to an increase in “assessed” small-scale (e.g. rooftop) solar power, which grew by 23.6% and accounted for 32.5% of total solar generation.

The combination of useful and small-scale solar power plants and useful solar thermal energy produced 3.9% of the country’s electricity production.

At the same time, the electricity production produced by wind power increased by 6.6% compared to the corresponding period of the previous year and produced 12.2% of the total electricity production. Thus, combined wind and solar accounted for 16.1%—or nearly one-sixth—of US electricity generation in the first two months of 2023.

By comparison, coal-fired electricity generation plummeted 32.7% and accounted for just 16% of total US electricity generation.

When production from all renewable energy sources (including biomass, geothermal and hydropower) is taken into account, the share of renewable energy sources in the total production was almost a quarter (24.1%) and the share of final produced coal was 50.8%.

Electricity production with a combination of renewable energy sources also exceeded nuclear power by 21.9%.

Data from FERC—including for the first two months of 2023—shows that wind’s share of total available electricity generation capacity has increased to 11.5%, while solar’s share is now 6.6%. Wind and solar power account for 18.1% of the US’s installed generation capacity. On the other hand, the share of coal has continued to decrease and is now only 17.1% of the total.

In addition, the combination of all renewable energy sources now accounts for 27.6 percent of the country’s generation capacity and looks set to grow rapidly over the next three years.

Between now and February 2026, FERC projects 17,690 MW of “high probability” net capacity additions from wind and 77,791 MW from “high probability” solar.

FERC also reported that the three-year pipeline could actually have as much as 66,322 MW of wind and 213,969 MW of solar.

In contrast, no new coal capacity additions are expected, and installed coal capacity may actually decrease by 28,507 MW. Oil and natural gas “high probability” net capacity are also seen to decline – 1,572MW and 574MW respectively, while nuclear power could fall by 123MW.

“The trend lines are pretty obvious,” says Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY campaign. “The gap between installed capacity and electricity generation between renewables – wind and solar – and coal and nuclear is not only growing, it’s accelerating rapidly.”

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David is a passionate writer and researcher who specializes in solar energy. He has a strong background in engineering and environmental science, which gives him a deep understanding of the science behind solar power and its benefits. David writes about the latest developments in solar technology and provides practical advice for homeowners and businesses who are interested in switching to solar.

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