New quarterly electricity generation: 2021 Q2

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Originally published on ILSR.org

Almost 7 gigawatts of new power generation capacity came on stream in the second quarter of 2021. Growth in renewable power generation capacity was comparable to last quarter, while new construction using fossil gas has dropped dramatically. In 4 of the last 8 quarters, the contribution of fossil gas to new electricity production capacity has been less than 10%. Fossil fuel power plants have made up the majority of additional quarterly generating capacity for two years.

In the chart below, we show the last two years of new power plant capacity in the United States, broken down by energy source on a quarterly basis.

The wind absorbs the significant losses of solar energy

After contributing more than 30% of new quarterly power generation capacity over the past three quarters, large-scale solar has lost momentum. 1.8 gigawatts of large-scale solar power came on stream this quarter, compared to 2.6 gigawatts in the first quarter 2021. The solar industry as a whole is faced with certain supply constraints, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie.

The development of the wind industry, on the other hand, accelerated slightly this quarter. 3.3 gigawatts of wind generation capacity were installed in the second quarter of 2021, compared to just under 3 gigawatts in the previous quarter. Wind power accounted for almost half of all added generating capacity this quarter, making wind the largest contributor to new electric generating capacity for three consecutive quarters. All of the wind capacity built in the second quarter of 2021 was onshore.


Find out how we can Get more solar power by forcing utilities to share data.


Demand for distributed solar power is only growing

Distributed solar had a strong performance in the second quarter of 2021, showing a slight advantage over an already impressive first quarter. The 100 megawatt quarter-over-quarter increase in generating capacity growth can be attributed to the increase in residential, commercial and community solar power.


Watch the progress of community solar power nationwide in our Monitoring of national community solar programs.


According to SEIA and Wood Mackenzie, most residential solar installations were installed in California, Florida or Texas. In California and Texas, the power grid has been shown to be vulnerable to blackouts or blackouts caused by wildfires. Residents recovering from massive grid outages and outages have every reason to find resilience through solar power.


Distributed solar power, especially when paired with storage, can offer great resilience to residential electricity customers. See how installing solar power with storage on Puerto Rico’s homes could power the island with 75% renewable energy by 2035 and provide resilience for all.


The federal solar investment tax credit is not expected to disappear in 2022, so 2021 may not see the same year-end solar surge as in previous years.

Gas construction stops

Only 9 gas plants were built in the second quarter of 2021, with a total nominal capacity of 346 megawatts – the second lowest quarter on record for gas. Only the third quarters of 2019 and 2020 showed lower indices for gas accumulation. Could the third quarter of 2021 set a new quarterly low for gas?

Gas has contributed less than 10% of new production capacity in 4 of the last 8 quarters. Given the current upward trends in gas prices and proposed federal policy, it is unlikely that conventional fossil gas will again be the majority of the capacity of new power plants.

Interested in past trends and capacity analysis of new power plants? To verify our archives, illustrating the evolution of electricity production over the previous quarters and years.


This article originally published on Ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get it The weekly Énergie Démocratie update.

Featured Photo Credit: US Department of Agriculture via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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