Chart: New solar and storage set to crush fossil gas deployments in the US

The market has spoken — and it says the energy transition is already well underway.

The words "chart of the week" are overlaid on a photo of a large field of solar panels in front of a snowy mountain range
(Photo by Werner Slocum/NREL; art by Binh Nguyen)

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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format. Canary thanks Natural Power for its support of this feature.

Legacy energy and utility interests might not want you to know this, but the energy transition is now in full effect in the United States. We’re well beyond the what if” stage, when we wondered how the grid would adjust to renewable energy, and are now decisively in the era of solar and storage.

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Power plant developers and operators plan to add 85 gigawatts of new capacity to the U.S. power grid in 2022 and 2023, and 60 percent (51 gigawatts) of this total will be made up of solar power and battery storage projects (often paired together), according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Texas, California and New York are leading this revolution in clean energy capacity additions in the U.S.

The remaining 34 gigawatts of planned capacity additions over the next two years will consist mostly of fossil gas (16 gigawatts) and wind (15 gigawatts). However, both of these sources will be handily eclipsed by new solar and battery storage deployments. 

This transition is being driven by solar photovoltaics and lithium-ion batteries — technologies that already actually exist and have been rapidly falling in cost. We do not have to rely on hopium, unobtanium, blue hydrogen or portable fusion reactors to get this societal shift started. And this shift is happening despite solar and storage coping with supply-chain stresses, interconnection delays and trade tariff headwinds.

It’s still early days, but battery storage could be entering a stretch of phenomenal growth, not unlike what the solar industry experienced over the last decade, according to data released by trade group American Clean Power and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. The U.S. deployed a total of 3.5 gigawatts of new storage capacity in 2021, according to Wood Mackenzie, setting a new record — and the vast majority was of the grid-scale, big-battery variety. 

More utility-scale solar PV capacity (24 gigawatts) was added to the U.S. power grid than natural gas (12 gigawatts) in 2020 and 2021, and this trend will likely persist as the demand for solar power continues to expand. In 2022, power plant developers and operators expect to add 22 gigawatts of solar capacity to the grid, substantially outpacing the 13 gigawatts added in 2021. This is driven by both the aforementioned falling solar technology costs and the 2020 extension of the federal solar Investment Tax Credit.

The energy transition has begun. It’s no longer a matter of if, but rather how fast we can get it done. As RMI co-founder Amory Lovins recently told The Guardian, The energy revolution has happened. Sorry if you missed it.”

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Natural Power is a global consultancy that supports its clients to deliver a wide range of renewable energy projects. Its independent engineering experience covers all phases of the project lifecycle, from feasibility through construction to operations, and all stages of the transaction. Learn more.

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Eric Wesoff is the editorial director at Canary Media.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial and research associate at Canary Media.