Solar and wind power have surged wildly in the US over the last decade – Canary Media

2 minutes, 41 seconds Read

This story was first published by Grist.

When you live far from the sprawling fields befitting utility-scale solar and wind farms, it’s easy to feel like clean energy isn’t coming online fast enough. But renewables have grown at a staggering rate since 2014 and now account for 22 percent of the nation’s electricity. Solar alone has grown an impressive eightfold in 10 years.

The sun and the wind have been the country’s fastest growing sources of energy over the past decade, according to a report released last week by the nonprofit Climate Central. Meanwhile, coal power has declined sharply, and the use of methane to generate electricity has all but leveled off. The Inflation Reduction Act is poised to kick that growth curve even higher with expanded tax credits for manufacturing and installing photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. The most optimistic projections suggest that the country is getting ever closer to achieving its 2030 and 2035 clean energy goals.

I think the rate at which renewables have been able to grow is just something that most people don’t recognize,” said Amanda Levin, director of policy analysis at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who was not involved in preparing the report.

In the decade analyzed by Climate Central, solar went from generating less than half a percent of the nation’s electricity to producing nearly 4 percent. In that same period, wind grew from 4 percent to roughly 10. Once hydropower, geothermal and biomass are accounted for, nearly a quarter of the nation’s grid was powered by renewable electricity in 2023, with the share only expected to rise thanks to the continued surge in solar.

The vast majority of the nation’s solar capacity comes from utility-scale installations with at least one megawatt of capacity (enough to power over a hundred homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association). But panels installed on rooftops, parking lots, and other comparatively small sites contributed a combined 48,000 megawatts across the country.

One thing that surprised a lot of different people who’ve read the report in our office was the strength of small-scale solar,” said Jen Brady, the lead analyst on the Climate Central report.

With residential and other small arrays accounting for 34 percent of the nation’s available capacity, it lets you know that maybe you could do something in your community, in your home that can help contribute to it,” Brady said.

Still, the buildout of utility-scale solar farms continues to set the pace for how rapidly renewable energy can feed the country’s grid. According to Sam Ricketts, a clean energy consultant and former climate policy advisor to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, solar’s growth was driven by production and investment tax credits that President Barack Obama extended in 2015 and President Joe Biden expanded through the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA. Beyond these federal incentives that allow energy developers to claim tax credits equivalent to 30 percent of the installation cost of renewables, state policies that proactively drive clean energy or promote a competitive market in which the dwindling price of renewables allow them to outshine fossil fuels have been critical to ratcheting up growth. Yet, even with the accelerating expansion seen in the last decade, more investments and incentives are needed.

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

Similar Posts