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Wind, Solar to Dominate New Power Plants in 2020

Wind, Solar to Dominate New Power Plants in 2020

Our electricity grid is on track to get a lot cleaner in 2020.

Of the 42 gigawatts of new power plant capacity projected to go online nationwide—about the capacity in New York State today—76 percent will come from wind and solar, based on the latest batch of data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That would be a record share, up from 64 percent of new capacity added in 2019. And it would be despite the Trump administration’s hostile stance toward renewable energy, including tariffs on imported solar panels and refusal to extend some tax credits.

“Solar and wind are just flat out the cheapest to build these days,” said Joshua Rhodes, a senior analyst for Vibrant Clean Energy, a consulting firm.

“It’s beating out other technologies,” Rhodes told me. “The only other technology that can even remotely compete is natural gas in some areas.”

Natural gas plants are 22 percent of the 2020 total expected addition, down from 34 percent last year.

The same EIA report shows that 11 gigawatts of power plant capacity is scheduled to shut down this year, 51 percent of which is coal-fired power. This is part of a data set that gets updated monthly.

No new coal plants are listed as being planned, which, along with plant closings, is why the future looks so bleak for the coal industry.

The mix of new power plants in 2020 is thoroughly dominated by wind, solar and gas, with all other power sources adding up to less than a gigawatt, or about 2 percent.

Most of the expected growth in renewable energy this year—18 gigawatts—is coming from 107 projects whose developers began construction in time to qualify for the federal production tax credit. This credit was set to phase out at the end of 2019, but was extended for one year by Congress as part of a larger bill passed at the end of December. The one-year extension fell far short of the larger package of renewable energy tax credits that some in Congress were seeking.

Tax credits have been a key part of stimulating growth in wind energy. Yet the costs of developing wind farms have fallen so much that they would be among the least expensive options, even without subsidies, as shown in cost comparisons by Lazard, among others.

Texas, which leads the nation in wind energy capacity, also is the leader in projected new wind capacity in 2020, with 32 percent of the total.

The largest planned wind farm is Aviator Wind, located in a rural county south of Abilene,  with capacity of 525 megawatts. It is scheduled to go online in August. Three other projects, in Texas, Wyoming and Colorado, also are close to or above 500 megawatts.

In the past, wind energy development has gone through booms and mini-busts, as developers shaped their schedules to qualify for tax credits. We are near the height of a boom, and analysts expect it to be followed by a slowdown in onshore wind projects going into the mid-2020s. This will likely coincide with growth for solar and offshore wind.

A big question going forward is how deep and how long the slowdown for onshore wind may be. For now, though, we can safely say 2020 looks like a banner year.

One caveat whenever we talk about power plant capacity: Wind and solar are intermittent resources, while gas, along with coal and nuclear, are capable of running around the clock. So a 100 megawatt wind farm is only going to generate power at close to its capacity in heavy winds, while a 100 megawatt gas plant can operate close to its capacity all the time.

But results can vary a lot. There are wind farms in the Plains states that operate at a high level for most of the day and night, and there are gas plants that sit idle most of the time.

As wind and solar continue to account for a large share of new power plants, grid operators are going to have to adapt to running systems that have large amounts of intermittent power. That’s the future, and it’s already happening parts of Europe that have much higher levels of renewables than the U.S.


Source:  Clean Economy Weekly

By:  I’m Dan Gearino, with news and analysis of the clean energy economy. Send me news tips and questions at, and thanks for reading!



U.S. clean energy investment hits new record despite Trump administration views

LONDON (Reuters) – Clean energy investment in the United States surged to a fresh record of $55.5 billion last year, despite the government’s attempts to roll back supportive policies, a report showed on Thursday.

As renewable energy costs have plunged and onshore wind and solar developers rushed to qualify for tax credits before they are scaled back this year, investment surged 28% from a year earlier, a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) said.

This, along with a bigger jump in financing for offshore wind, helped to offset a decline in investment in the world’s biggest market, China.

The U.S. wind power tax credit has seen its value drop since 2017 and was scheduled to be phased out completely by this year The wind power tax credit is currently worth 1.5 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. The credit’s value began dropping in 2017 and was scheduled to be phased out completely next year.

Global renewable energy capacity investment inched up by 1% to $282.2 billion last year.

“It’s notable that in this third year of the Trump presidency, which has not been particularly supportive of renewables, U.S. clean energy investment set a new record by a country mile,” said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas at BNEF.

“These technologies are more cost-competitive than ever, and the fact that there was a tax credit step-down on the horizon made the market particularly busy in 2019,” he added.

Indeed, President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of federal support for Obama-era climate goals indirectly helped the industry here by inspiring a backlash among U.S. cities, states and corporations, which have grown more ambitious about installing cleaner forms of energy.

Although China is still the biggest investor in renewables, the amount declined by 8% to $83.4 billion last year.

In the second half of the year there was a surge in offshore wind financing which took investment in that sector to $29.9 billion, a new record and 19% higher than a year earlier, the report said.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Bernadette Baum


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