Solar Leads the Way

It’s truly amazing to watch. Solar in the United States continues to chart a path of historic growth and that path is accelerating. Despite dismal second quarter 2020 economic data, the first two quarters of 2020 were record breaking for solar and other forms of renewable energy—from the most solar installed during any Q1 at 3.6 GW to renewable energy generating more U.S. electricity than coal or nuclear.

And the solar industry isn’t stopping there. Last month we talked about Congress showing increasing ambition to deploy renewables, but the real action is happening at the state, local, and individual level. The U.S. electric grid is entering a phase of rapid transformation, and from consumers to politicians to developers to utilities, Americans are advancing the uptake of renewable energy at breathtaking rates.

Here are some of the headlines that have broken over the last month:

  • New York State has issued a 4 GW solicitation for renewable energy. This is the largest renewable energy solicitation ever issued by a state.
  • In Nevada, construction has begun on two solar plants as part of the Gigawatt Nevada Solar and Storage Project.
  • In Texas, San Antonio’s municipal utility CPS has announced plans to procure 900 MW of solar and 50 MW of batteries.
  • Indiana utility NIPSCO plans to add 300 MW of solar and storage by 2023.

These new activities are adding to already massive development pipelines, with a new analysis by Berkeley Lab showing 165 GW of solar and solar-plus-storage projects were added to the interconnection queues of grid operators last year, bringing the total to 362 GW. For context, at the end of 2019 the United States had only 76 GWdc of solar installed.

The unquestionable economics of solar provide a solid basis for further growth. According to Wood Mackenzie, 75% of the solar under development is being driven by either voluntary utility procurement or corporate procurement, not mandates.

And this development is increasingly not limited to the West Coast nor the Northeast; the three grid operators that added the most solar to their queues in 2019 were PJM Interconnection (East Coast and Midwest), MISO (Midwest and South) and ERCOT (Texas).

This clean energy boom that we are entering means jobs for Americans. It means economic development. And it means abundant, clean, cheap power.