- EIA has forecast 15.7 GW annual utility scale solar power addition forecast for the year 2021
- For the year 2022 it sees 15.9 GW being installed in the utility scale segment
- For both these years, it has also forecast around 5 GW of small scale solar capacity each, representing less than 1 MW capacity systems
- Texas will be an important market to watch out for as it is likely to add 4.6 GW of new solar power capacity in 2021, and another 5.4 GW in 2022
- ACP said 3.8 GW solar, wind and battery energy storage capacity came online in the US in Q1/2021
In its Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) for the month of May 2021, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has forecast utility scale solar capacity additions for the year 2021 to grow to 15.7 GW, followed by a slightly bigger number of 15.9 GW in 2022. It is a very small improvement over its 15.4 GW forecast it offered for 2021 in January 2021 (see EIA Expects 15.4 GW Utility Scale PV For US In 2021).
Additionally, the EIA sees close to 5 GW of small scale solar systems of less than 1 MW capacity to come online annually during 2021-22 STEO forecast period. In 2020, according to the US agency, annual utility scale solar power capacity added up to a total of 10.5 GW.
A significant part of this capacity addition will be in Texas, as per the EIA as it sees the state adding 4.6 GW new solar in 2021 and 5.4 GW in 2022 taking its total installed capacity to 14.9 GW, thanks to the extension of Investment Tax Credit (ITC) among other factors. In 2020, Texas installed 2.5 GW solar power capacity. Over the next 2 years, the EIA expects Texas to represent 1/3rd of the utility scale solar capacity (30 GW) to come online in the country.
For wind power, the EIA forecast is for annual additions of 15.9 GW in 2021, and a whopping low of 5.2 GW in 2022. Nuclear power’s share is likely to decline from 21% in 2020 to 20% in 2021 and to 19% in 2022 as some capacity is scheduled to retire.
“As a result of the higher expected natural gas prices, the forecast share of generation from coal rises from 20% in 2020 to 24% this year and to 23% next year,” stated the STEO. “We forecast that after declining by 19% in 2020, coal-related CO2 emissions will rise by 17% in 2021 and then fall by 1% in 2022.”
It would translate into solar and wind power generation capacity to push the renewables share of total power mix of the country in 2021 to grow to 21%, from 20% in 2020, and to 22% in 2022.
However, it warns that the May STEO remains subject to ‘heightened levels of uncertainty’ due to COVID-19 even as the country has seen its economy to open up slowly with COVID-19 restrictions being gradually eased.
How others see the market
In Q1/2021, according to the American Clean Power Association (ACP), the US installed 2.5 GW of wind (13 projects), 1.2 GW of utility scale solar (15 projects), and 100 MW of battery energy storage capacity (2 projects). It added that the country’s total operational clean power capacity now exceeds 173 GW, and there is more than 84 GW of clean power capacity under construction or in advanced development across the country. It includes 44 GW of solar and 35 GW of wind power.
In March 2021, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie’s US Solar Market Insight: 2020 Year-in-Review said the country installed 19.2 GW DC new solar capacity in 2020 with utility scale solar accounting for 14 GW DC. It expects US utility scale installations in 2021 to swell to 17.5 GW DC capacity (see US Installed Record 19.2 GW Solar In 2020).