ARKANSAS, Oct 2 (Future Headlines)- The renewable energy landscape in the United States, particularly solar power, is reaching new heights, with July 2023 marking a month of significant milestones. A comprehensive review by the SUN DAY Campaign, using data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), reveals that solar energy has demonstrated remarkable growth and potential.

According to FERC’s “Energy Infrastructure Update” report, solar power accounted for a substantial portion of the new U.S. generation capacity added in July 2023. Specifically, 47 “units” of solar energy contributed 1,824 megawatts (MW) of new generation capacity during the month, representing a remarkable 67.2% of the total added. The remaining 892 MW came from natural gas sources. This robust performance pushed solar’s share of the nation’s total installed generating capacity up to 7.12%.

This significant growth in solar capacity underscores its increasing role in the U.S. energy landscape and its potential to become a major player in the nation’s energy mix. The EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report for July 2023 reveals another impressive achievement for solar energy. Solar-generated electricity experienced a remarkable 22.3% increase during the month compared to July 2022. This growth rate outpaced all other energy sources, driven in part by a substantial 26.6% expansion in electricity provided by small-scale solar photovoltaic systems, including distributed and rooftop installations.

Solar power contributed a total of 26,785 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity in July, representing 6.2% of all electricity generated in the country. In this milestone month, solar surpassed hydropower (21,500 GWh) and came close to matching the electricity generated by utility-scale wind farms (27,726 GWh).

The impressive performance of solar energy in July is poised to continue its upward trajectory. FERC’s data indicates that “high probability” additions of solar capacity between August 2023 and July 2026 are estimated at a staggering 84,392 MW. This amount is nearly four times the forecasted net additions for wind energy (21,341 MW) and almost 20 times the projections for natural gas (4,660 MW) during the same period.

Furthermore, there is potential for even more significant growth in solar energy. FERC suggests that there could be up to 215,688 MW of new solar capacity in the pipeline for the next three years. If the “high probability” additions materialize as projected, solar energy will account for more than one-eighth (12.9%) of the nation’s installed generating capacity by mid-summer 2026. This would surpass the capacity of wind energy (12.4%) and approach the combined capacity of oil (2.6%) and nuclear power (7.5%). Solar would also significantly close in on the capacity of coal (13.8%).

Although natural gas would continue to hold the largest share of installed generating capacity (41.8%) in three years, the collective capacity of all renewable sources, including solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass, would total 34.1%. This trend suggests that renewable energy sources are on a trajectory to further reduce natural gas’ dominance in the energy mix.

The month of July 2023 showcased the strength of renewables as a whole. All renewable sources combined provided a remarkable 81,522 GWh of electric power, surpassing both coal (78,672 GWh) and nuclear power (69,888 GWh) in electricity generation. FERC’s three-year capacity forecasts indicate that renewables will continue to expand their lead over these conventional sources.

Ken Bossong, the executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, commented on these remarkable developments, emphasizing that “the emergence of the solar era is well underway.” Solar energy’s robust growth in both new capacity and actual electricity generation signals a promising future. Within three years, it is poised to account for more than an eighth of the United States’ generating capacity. Additionally, when combined with all renewable sources, the total capacity will exceed that of coal or nuclear power, approaching the capacity of natural gas.

These milestones reflect the growing importance of solar energy in the transition to cleaner and more sustainable power generation in the United States. Solar power’s rapid expansion not only contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also strengthens the nation’s energy security and resilience. As the solar era continues to shine, its potential to reshape the energy landscape and drive a greener future becomes increasingly evident.

Writing by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White