U.S. solar generation expands 24% in 2020, now providing 3.3% of nation’s total electricity

Electrical generation by wind and solar in the United States was 16.7% greater in 2020 than one year earlier, this according to SUN DAY Campaign analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. All combined, annual electricity production by renewable energy sources provided more than one-fifth of the nation’s electrical output.

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The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through December 31, 2020) also reveals that solar-generated electricity — including residential solar — expanded by 24.1% (compared to 2019) and provided almost 3.3% of the nation’s total. Wind grew by 14.1% and accounted for 8.3% of total generation. No other energy sources experienced similarly high growth rates.

During the year, electrical generation by geothermal energy and hydropower also increased by 9.4% and 1.1%, respectively, but that from biomass fell by 2.5%. While total U.S. electrical generation from all sources decreased by 2.7% — due at least in part to the COVID-19 pandemic — the electrical output by the combination of renewables increased by over 9.2%. Collectively, renewables provided 20.6% of the country’s total electrical output — up from 18.3% a year earlier.

For perspective, renewable sources accounted for 13.6% of U.S. electrical generation at the end of 2015 and just 10.4% at the end of 2010. Thus, renewables have doubled their share of the nation’s electrical generation over the past decade.

Renewables’ share of U.S. electrical generation in 2020 eclipsed that of nuclear power (19.5%) and coal (19.1%). Renewables produced 7.8% more electricity than coal through December 2020. In fact, electrical generation by coal was 19.8% lower than one year earlier. In addition, renewable energy sources produced 5.6% more electricity than did nuclear power whose output fell 2.4% during the same 12-month period.

While natural gas continued to provide the largest share (39.9%) of the nation’s electrical output, natural gas grew by only 2.0% during the year. It actually dropped by 8.6% in November and by 4.7% in December, compared to the corresponding months in 2019.

“With wind and solar costs continuing to drop and more supportive leadership now in Washington, D.C., the prospects for even stronger growth in 2021 and beyond seem very promising,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “Within the next five years, renewables will probably be providing more than a quarter of the nation’s electrical generation, and quite possibly more.”

News item from SUN DAY