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The US renewable energy industry experienced major growth in 2021, and this is reflected in the latest reports from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and American Clean Power Association (ACPA). In particular, solar and wind power have become the two fastest growing electricity sources in the country, ahead of all fossil fuels. As of early 2022, the ACPA reports 187 gigawatts of clean generation capacity in the US, enough to meet the needs of 52 million homes. Clean power is preventing 375 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, which is equivalent to removing 81 million cars from the road.
Renewable energy is also creating thousands of jobs. More than 415,000 Americans are now employed in this industry, and the top 5 fastest growing jobs include wind turbine technicians and solar installers. Solar and wind power are also a major source of income for landowners and local governments, generating $2.8 billion per year in lease payments and taxes.
US Solar Power Outlook in 2022
Early in 2021, the US solar capacity surpassed the 100-gigawatt mark. According to the latest projections from the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie, the US could reach an estimated 250-300 gigawatts by the end of 2026. Although solar installations have been slowed down by supply chain disruptions, the 26% federal tax credit will continue to be an incentive in 2022, before decreasing to 22% in 2023.
According to the SEIA, Texas is now the solar power leader in the US, installing 4,523 MW between Q1 and Q3 2021. California is in a distant second place with 1,899 MW installed, and Florida is third with 1,219 MW.
Like many other industry sectors, solar power was affected by inflation during the last year, but the impact was not severe. The following table summarizes the price increase for the four main market segments, between Q3 2020 and Q3 2021:
|Solar Market Segment||Q3 2020 Price||Q3 2021 Price|
The SEIA has a database of over 5,300 major solar projects in the US, adding up a total capacity of over 143 GW. The total capacity of the projects in operation exceeds 74 GW, and there are nearly 70 GW in the pipeline. This includes the 1.65 GW Mammoth Solar farm in Indiana, currently the largest solar array in the US, which is scheduled for completion in 2024 with a budget of $1.5 billion. Other major solar projects currently under development and construction include the 345 MW Ventress Solar farm in Louisiana, and the 57 MW energy storage expansion for the 497 MW Roadrunner Solar farm in Texas.
US Wind Power Outlook in 2022
Wind power is the 2nd fastest growing electricity source in the US, after solar power. Texas is the leading state in terms of onshore wind capacity, with more than 38,000 MW installed as of early 2022, and an additional 16,000 MW under construction and development. The offshore wind industry is also taking off, and the US Department of Energy has forecast an installed capacity of 22 GW by 2030, and up to 86 GW by 2050.
On February 23, 2022, the Biden Administration will be holding the largest offshore wind auction on record. The auction includes six commercial leases, using 488,201 acres of shallow waters close to the New York and New Jersey coasts. This area could host around 7 GW of wind generation capacity, which is enough to provide electricity for 2 million US homes.
This auction comes shortly after the Purchase and Sale Agreements (PSA) for the 1,260 MW Empire Wind 2 project and the 1,230 MW Beacon Wind 1 project, which were finalized in January 2022. Equinor and bp will be the project developers, and the PSAs were awarded by the NY State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). With a total capacity of 2,490 MW, this is one of the largest renewable energy procurements in the US so far.
US EIA: Solar and Wind Growth Forecast for 2022
According to the US Energy Information Administration, the country will install 46.1 GW of utility-scale generation capacity in 2022. Solar power will remain on top, with an expected growth of 21.5 GW, representing 46% of the new capacity added. Natural gas will have the 2nd highest growth with 9.6 GW added (21%), while wind power will be in 3rd place with 7.6 GW (17%). Together, these three electricity sources account for 84% of the predicted growth.
The US EIA is also forecasting 5.1 GW of utility-scale battery capacity added in 2022, which represents 11% of the total forecast. The remaining 5% of generation capacity added will consist mostly of nuclear power (2.2 GW), while all other sources will only add up to 0.2 GW.