Report: 24 Percent of U.S. Electricity Came From Hydropower, Wind, Solar In First Half Of Year

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By Bethany Blankley
The Center Square Contributor

In the first half of 2022, 24 percent of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation came from hydropower, solar, and wind, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reports.

The analysis is based on data from the Energy Information Agency’s Electric Power Monthly, which also found that from June 2021 to June 2022, a record amount of new utility-scale solar capacity was installed in the United States.

Over the year, 17.6 gigawatts of new utility-scale solar capacity came online, bringing total national capacity to 65.8 gigawatts, according to Energy Information Agency’s Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory. In June 2022, the United States had 137.6 gigawatts of wind capacity, with 10 percent (14.3 gigawatts) of it being installed since the previous June. The Energy Information Agency projects another 7 gigawatts of wind and 13 gigawatts of solar capacity will come online by the end of 2022.

While hydropower and wind-generated electricity make up the majority of new sources of power in the United States, they are generally most effective only in the beginning of the year. They are less reliable than oil, natural gas, and coal because they depend on seasonal sources of sunlight and water supply – both of which depend on the weather. Hydropower depends on rainfall and snowmelt, and the wind doesn’t blow every day, let alone 24 hours a day.

In the second half of 2022, the Energy Information Agency’s Short-Term Energy Outlook projects these sources of energy will generate 20 percent less than they did during the first half of the year “as wind and hydroelectric generation decline.” Both energy sources “typically peak in the first half of the year, when there are more windy days and the winter snowpack is melting,” the Energy Information Agency says.

While solar energy also remains intermittent, depending on the number of hours of sunlight in a day or region, record numbers of solar panels were shipped to the United States during 2021, the Energy Information Agency reports.

U.S. shipments of solar photovoltaic modules (solar panels) rose to a record electricity-generating capacity of 28.8 million peak kilowatts in 2021 up from 21.8 million peak kilowatts in 2020, according to the Energy Information Agency’s Annual Photovoltaic Module Shipments Report.

U.S. solar panel shipments include imports, exports, and domestically produced and shipped panels, the Energy Information Agency explains. Last year, roughly 80 percent of U.S. solar panel module shipments were primarily imported from China and other Asian countries.

The Energy Information Agency categorizes solar capacity as either utility-scale (facilities with one megawatt of capacity or more) or small-scale (largely residential solar installations).

In 2021, 13.2 gigawatts of utility-scale solar capacity was added in the United States, an annual record, and 25 percent more than what was added in 2020 of 10.6 gigawatts, according to its Annual Electric Generator Report. Despite project delays, supply chain constraints, and volatile pricing, it reported that utility-scale solar capacity still reached a record high.

Small-scale solar capacity installations, mostly in residential homes, also increased by 5.4 gigawatts in 2021, up 23 percent from 2020 (4.4 gigawatts). Residential installations totaled more than 3.9 gigawatts in 2021, compared with 2.9 gigawatts in 2020, the Energy Information Agency found.

Despite general record high costs due to inflation, the cost of solar panels today are still less than they used to be and have declined significantly since 2010, the Energy Information Agency reports. In 2010, the average value of panel shipments was $1.96 per peak kilowatt compared to 34 cents per peak kilowatt in 2021, according to the Energy Information Agency’s analysis. Even with supply chain constraints and higher material costs in 2021, the average value of solar panels decreased by 11 percent from 2020, the Energy Information Agency says.

Five states account for nearly half — 46 percent — of all solar panel shipments last year. The greatest number of panels were shipped to California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Illinois in 2021.


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