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Latest Official Data from US EIA: Solar Power Costs Decreased in 2019

The US Energy Information Administration collects key information about energy production and consumption in the US. According to their latest data, utility-scale solar power costs decreased by 2.8% in 2019, reaching $1,796 per kilowatt. The cost decrease can be attributed in great part to crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar power with axis-based tracking, which dropped to $1,497 per kW. The capacity of new solar farms with this technology was 2.5 gigawatts (GW), representing almost half of the total solar capacity added.

Solar panels, wind turbines and natural gas generators represented over 98% of total US capacity additions in 2019. However, the total investment in all forms of generation decreased by 4.9% compared with 2018. The following table summarizes capacity additions and investment for the top three generation technologies:

Generation TechnologyCapacity Additions in 2019Investment
Onshore wind power9,625 MW$13.4 billion
Natural gas8,075 MW$8.7 billion
Solar photovoltaic5,450 MW$9.9 billion
Source: US Energy Information Administration

Capacity additions for 2019 were concentrated in the South (10,746MW and $13.6 billion), followed by the Midwest (5,239MW and $8.3 billion). In terms of new megawatts added, the top five states in 2019 were Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa and California.

The cost of onshore wind power remained stable, increasing from $1,382/kW in 2018 to $1,391/kW in 2019. However, the wind power capacity addition was higher by 39%. Wind farms over 200 MW represented the largest share of new capacity – 6 GW of the total 9.6 GW.  They also experienced a cost decrease of 1.3%, reaching $1,252 per kW.

The cost of natural gas generators increased by 29%, reaching $1,078 per kW. Capacity additions were led by combined-cycle power plants, with a cost increase of 10% (from $858/kW in 2018, to $948/kW in 2019).

US Solar Power: Breakdown of Capacity Additions and Investment in 2019

The 5,450 MW of solar generation capacity added in 2019 can be classified as follows:

  • 892 MW of crystalline silicon solar modules with fixed tilt
  • 2,455 MW of c-Si solar modules with axis-based tracking
  • 126 MW of thin film Cadmium Telluride solar modules with fixed tilt
  • 1,623 MW of thin film CdTe modules with axis-based tracking
  • 354 MW of projects using other solar panel configurations

While the average cost of solar farms with c-Si modules and tracking decreased to $1,497 per kW, the cost of c-Si solar farms with fixed tilt increased to $2,242/kW.

The five states that added the most solar generation capacity in 2019 are listed below, along with the corresponding investment:

StateSolar Capacity Added in 2019Investment
1) California1,037 MW$2.1 billion
2) Florida741 MW$1.0 billion
3) Georgia490 MW$0.6 billion
4) Texas489 MW$0.8 billion
5) North Carolina471 MW$0.9 billion
Source: US Energy Information Administration

Solar power can be expected to continue growing at a steady pace in the near future, thanks to the two-year extension of the 26% federal tax credit. The US surpassed 100 GW of installed solar capacity in Q1 2021, according to the latest quarterly report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, and another 160 GW could be deployed within five years.

Source US EIA SEIA

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