US Solar Power Surges Past 100 GW Milestone in Q1 2024

"US Solar Industry Hits Record High as Installations Soar by 21% in Q1 2024, Surpassing 100 GW Milestone"

The U.S. solar industry reached a significant milestone in the first quarter of 2024, as installations surged by 21% compared to the previous year, surpassing the 100 GW mark in cumulative solar capacity, according to data from S&P Global Commodity Insights. This growth underscores the increasing adoption of renewable energy, driven by favorable policies and market dynamics.

Developers installed 3,379 MW of utility-scale solar during this period, bringing the total solar capacity to an impressive 100,883 MW. The rise in solar installations can be largely credited to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and its associated incentives, which have provided a boost to the industry, allowing companies to capitalize on financial benefits and invest significantly in solar infrastructure.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlighted the shifting energy landscape, noting that wind and solar energy could soon surpass coal generation for the first time in U.S. history. The trend towards cleaner energy sources aims to achieve 80% clean energy on the path to 100% clean electricity by 2035. Solar power leads the charge, with around 56 GW of new capacity additions expected in 2024.

Sam Huntington, director of North American power and renewables analysis at S&P Global Commodity Insights, emphasized the strong growth trajectory of solar energy, stating that solar is expected to continue its rapid expansion and play a significant role in the energy sector for the next seven years and beyond. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that there are now 5 million solar projects in the U.S., including both utility-scale and distributed installations.

In terms of environmental impact, the U.S. solar industry displaces 198 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to shutting down 53 coal-fired power plants. The reduced CO2 emissions from solar energy installations could fuel a journey to the sun and back, totaling 22 billion gallons of gas. SEIA projects that the number of solar installations will double to 10 million by 2030 and triple by 2034, highlighting the rapid growth and acceptance of solar power across various sectors.

Looking ahead to 2024, project developers have ambitious plans to add an additional 54,484 MW of new solar capacity. This pipeline includes announced projects, those in early development, advanced development, and those already under construction. Overall, 228,197 MW of additional solar capacity is in various stages of development, projected to be completed by 2028 according to S&P Global data.

Understanding the stages of project development is crucial for comprehending the scale and progress of solar installations. S&P Global Market Intelligence categorizes projects under construction once building activities have commenced. Advanced development requires projects to meet specific criteria, while early development begins with the permitting process. The first quarter of 2024 saw the completion of the ten largest solar projects, totaling 1,912 MW, with Texas leading the way.

Notable among these projects are the IP Lumina I and II Solar Projects, collectively adding approximately 627 MW of solar capacity. Another significant initiative is the California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, California, boasting a capacity to produce 580 MW of power. Nevada’s Copper Mountain Solar Facility, developed by Sempra Generation, has also been expanding its capacity, now standing at 802 MW.

The future of the U.S. solar industry looks promising, with continued growth expected due to strong policy support, technological advancements, and increasing market demand. As the nation moves towards its renewable energy goals, solar power will play an increasingly vital role in the energy mix, with significant capacity additions anticipated in the years ahead.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts a 75% increase in solar power generation from 163 billion kWh in 2023 to 286 billion kWh by 2025, driven by new solar projects coming online. Additionally, the capacity operated by the electric power sector could rise by 38% to 131 GW by the end of 2024, reflecting growing investment and development in solar energy infrastructure across the country.

Corporations in America are also contributing to the expansion of solar power, with projections indicating support for the production of over 100 GW of solar module manufacturing capacity. These developments underscore the pivotal role that solar energy continues to play in diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio and reducing carbon emissions.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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