Record Growth Continues for Renewable Energy Projects

The pace of installations of renewable energy projects across the first six months of 2021 hit a new high for the sector, according to a report released Aug. 24 by the American Clean Power Association (ACP).

ACP, which works with solar, wind, energy storage and power transmission companies to promote renewable energy, said the U.S. added 9,915 MW of onshore and offshore wind, battery storage, and utility-scale solar power generation capacity in the first half of the year, a 17% increase over the same period in 2020.

The total includes commissioning of 5,620 MW of generation capacity in the second quarter of the year, a 13% jump from the April-to-June period in 2020. The data was published in ACP’s “Clean Power Quarterly 2021 Q2 Market Report.”

“This market report shows the record growth across the renewable energy sector. With a record pace of installations in the first half of 2021 our industry not only provides good-paying jobs but also is a key part of solving the climate crisis,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based ACP. “This growth and expansion are expected to continue but we need policymakers in Washington to make long-term decisions to ensure we can continue to develop these critical projects.”

Billions in Investment

ACP in its recently released “Clean Power Annual 2020” report said a record 26,000 MW of new clean energy projects came online last year, backed by $39 billion in investments. Renewable energy installations represented 78% of all new U.S. generation last year, with projects moving forward despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ACP quarterly report released Tuesday said the clean power industry installed 2,226 MW of solar capacity in the second quarter, a 73% increase compared to the first three months of 2021, with 3,513 MW installed across the first six months of the year. Wind power capacity increased by 2,824 MW in the April-to-June period, 10% more than during the second quarter of 2020.

The report showed 570 MW of battery energy storage was installed in 2Q2021, bringing total capacity additions to 665 MW for the first half of the year.

Brent Marshall, CEO at Smarter Grid Solutions, an energy software company focused on distributed energy resource management systems, recently told POWER there were many reasons renewable energy installations continue to move forward, particularly as more countries and companies set clean energy goals.

“The progress we have seen in 2020 is enough to give a greater sense of optimism in 2021,” said Marshall. “The goal of a clean energy system that works for all customers and tackles the climate emergency head-on is a worthy mission. Advances we have seen in global policy, technology and corporate responsibility give a clear indicator that net-zero carbon emission targets are being taken seriously but we do need to continue on this trajectory and be sure not to lose momentum.”  

Projects in 27 States

ACP said project owners commissioned 56 new projects across 27 states from April through June, including 30 utility-scale solar projects, 16 wind projects, seven energy storage installations, and three solar-storage hybrid projects. Texas, the top state when it comes to renewable energy installations, added 1,489 MW of generation capacity, followed by California (585 MW), Michigan (424 MW), Florida (373 MW), and Kansas (301MW).

ACP said the U.S. now has more than 180,000 MW of clean power generation capacity in operation, a total that has more than doubled in the past five years. The group said it counted another 906 projects either under construction or in advanced development across the country as of the end of June. Those installations combined represent nearly 102,000 MW of additional generation capacity, and announcements of more renewable capacity continue.

Corporate and other power purchase agreements (PPAs) continue to drive renewable energy development. The ACP report said 7,700 MW of new PPAs were signed in the first half of the year, including 4,218 MW of new agreements in the second quarter. ACP said more than 20 solar power projects secured PPAs in the April-to-June period.

 —Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).


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