Wind, solar, and other non-hydro renewables will have provided more than 10% of electricity generation in 2018, and nearly 11% in 2019, according to the latest monthly energy report from the US government.
That is up from less than 10% in 2017, said the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook, published on November 6.
The agency said it expected total US solar generation will rise from 212,000 MWh per day in 2017 to 268,000 MWh per day in 2018 – an increase of 27% – and to 303,000 MWh per day in 2019, a further increase of 13%.
The EIA noted that in recent years, the solar industry has seen a shift from fixed-tilt solar PV systems to tracking systems.
“Although tracking systems are more expensive than fixed-tilt systems, revenue from the additional electricity generated by following the path of the sun across the sky often exceeds the increased cost,” it commented.
Hydro is not gaining in market share. The generation share of hydro was 7% in 2017, and EIA forecasts that it will be about the same in 2018 and in 2019.
In a separate report, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reported that more than 700 MW of utility-scale wind and solar projects came online in September, the most recent month for which data was available.
The total consisted of three wind projects and nine solar projects. No projects fuelled by coal, nuclear, natural gas or oil came online during the month.
In the first nine months of the year, meanwhile, natural gas led the sector with 12,110 MW of new additions, solar saw 3,040 MW and wind had 2,750 MW.
As of September 30, the US had 91,670 MW of installed wind, and 34,630 MW of solar. That wind and solar a market share of 7.71% and 2.91% respectively, said the commission. Natural gas plants had a market share of 43.95%, coal of 22.55%, nuclear of
9.05% and oil of 3.5%
Emissions are however not declining as the power sector becomes less carbonised.
After declining by 0.8% in 2017, EIA forecasts that US energy-related CO2 emissions will rise by 2.5% in 2018.
“This increase largely reflects higher natural gas consumption in 2018 because of a colder winter and a warmer summer than in 2017,” said EIA. The agency, part of the US department of Energy, said it expects emissions to decline by 1.3% in 2019 with temperatures forecast to return to normal.