Solar power will account for almost half of planned US electric generating capacity additions this year, while onshore wind will see a steep decline to 17%, with Texas the leading state for installations for both renewable technologies, according to a new Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecast.
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Utility PV will contribute 21.5GW of 46.1GW in total new plant capacity in the country this year (46%) versus 15.5GW in 2021, setting a national record. Texas will contribute 6.1GW followed by California, with 4GW.
Onshore wind additions in the US will total 7.6GW, less than half the 17.1GW recorded last year, with 51% in Texas, EIA, the statistics arm of the Department of Energy, said in Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, October 2021.
EIA did not provide an explanation for the sector’s forecast weak performance this year, but industry consultancies point to several reasons, topmost the phase down of the federal production tax credit (PTC) that expired at the end of 2021 for new projects and which is suffering from a lack of clarity over whether there will be an extension.
There has also been the impact of Covid-19-fuelled disruptions to the industry’s global supply chain made worse by the highly transmissible Omicron variant that has caused absenteeism problems as workers either contract the virus or are exposed to it on factory floors and jobsites and must isolate. Ripple effects have included delays to some financings and construction of projects, and higher logistics costs.
And grid interconnection issues continue to loom, with transmission access and soaring upgrade costs to accommodate new projects proving a bottleneck in most of seven RTOs (regional transmission organisations) that operate electric grids and wholesale electricity markets.
Observers also flag that some of 59 other “balancing authorities” nationwide that are individual utilities serving unrelated territories where they act as grid and bulk market operator.
Wind market updrafts stall
EIA’s 2022 onshore wind estimate is below the 9GW forecast by research groups BloombergNEF and IHS Markit.
Natural gas additions will total 9.6GW this year with combined cycle plants accounting for 84% and combustion-turbine plants the remainder. Almost all planned new capacity is in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan.
Utility battery storage will surge 84% to 5.1GW in response to declining costs, greater use of battery storage pairing with mainly solar but also wind, and to provide ancillary services in some RTOs, according to EIA.
Two nuclear reactors totalling 2.22GW capacity – Vogtle 3 and 4 – will come online this year in Georgia, the first facilities to enter commercial operation since 2016.