It’s an understatement to say the past year has been filled with twists and turns, and the headlines have continued causing whiplash so far in 2021. However, one constant has been the continued rapid growth of clean energy. The numbers are in for the year’s first quarter, and they show a trend with no signs of abating: clean energy powers more of our homes and businesses every day. In 2021’s first three months alone, the U.S. installed enough wind, utility-scale solar, and battery storage to power over 1 million homes.
That’s the big news from the latest Clean Quarterly Market Report. Here are a few more noteworthy findings:
- We’re in a clean power growth spurt: The U.S. now has nearly 173,000 megawatts (MW) of clean energy capacity—double what was online just five years ago. It’s also enough to power over 45 million American homes.
- A lot more clean energy is on the way: Even though 2020 was a record year for new clean energy project coming online, we’re far from exhausting our near-term potential. Another 84,000 MW of new clean energy projects are currently either under construction or in advanced development. That includes nearly 34,000 MW of new wind projects and a massive 44,442 MW of new solar projects.
- Future grid connections are banking on clean power: Electric grid operators are finding almost 90 percent of the 665 gigawatts (GW) of power plant projects being studied nationwide for potential future grid connection consists of solar, wind, storage and hybrids, versus just over 10 percent for fossil fuels and other non-renewables.
- Familiar faces atop the clean energy leaderboard: The top five states for first quarter additions include Texas (791 MW), Oklahoma (555 MW), California (519 MW), South Dakota (462 MW), and North Dakota (299 MW).
- Average wind turbine rating is increasing, reducing the total number of wind turbines needed and overall project costs: The majority (68 percent) of turbines installed in the first half of the year are rated between 2 MW to less than 3 MW. However, there are over 15,000 MW of wind turbines under construction or in advanced development, and where models are known, the capacity weighted average of all turbines in the pipeline is 3.23 MW. The 4.5 MW+ class now has over 1,800 MW of capacity (12 percent) in the pipeline.
- More important milestones in offshore wind development: 2021’s first quarter saw important progress markers as we begin harvesting the winds off U.S. shores.
- The Biden Administration announced an ambitious but achievable goal of 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030.
- Dominion Energy officially commissioned its 12 MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, expected to be a stepping stone for the utility’s larger 2.6 GW multi-phase project.
- BOEM released the Vineyard Wind Record of Decision, the final hurdle the project needed to clear and paving the way for construction to begin.
Clean energy is off to a strong start in 2021, and the data show there’s every indication we’re in for another banner year.