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New APPA Report Details Surge in Planned Solar Capacity Additions in the U.S.

More than 27,000 megawatts of solar capacity are under construction and projected to come online in 2023, a 32% increase from the current U.S. solar capacity and a 147% increase since the beginning of 2020, a new report from the American Public Power Association shows.

And for the second year in a row, solar was the leading source of new utility-scale capacity, the report, “America’s Electricity Generating Capacity: 2023 Update,” said.

With respect to wind capacity, the net gain of wind capacity since the beginning of 2020 is over 39,000 MW, which is a 37% increase over the past three years, the report noted.

Solar and wind are also the top resources in all four future capacity addition categories. Over 227,000 MW of solar capacity is proposed, pending application, permitted, or currently under construction, and there is nearly 158,000 MW of wind capacity in the pipeline.

The annual report covers current and imminent electricity generation capacity in the United States by types of fuel, location, and ownership type.

Generation capacity refers to the maximum potential power output of an electricity generation source, i.e., the amount of power a plant can produce if it were running at full power. Capacity is measured in megawatts.

The report covers generation capacity only. All capacity figures in the report only represent utility-scale capacity and do not include distributed and other small-scale generating capacity.

This year’s report also includes American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands in APPA’s analysis.

Currently, the U.S. has nearly 1.3 million megawatts generation capacity. The largest fuel source is natural gas, accounting for just under 44% of all generation capacity.

Coal, with a share of 17%, represents the second largest source of generation capacity. Wind, nuclear, hydro, and solar together account for more than one-third of capacity.

Under Development

The report analyzes prospective generation capacity in four categories: under construction, permitted, application pending, and proposed.

Over 466,000 MW of new generation capacity is under development in the United States -- a 13% increase over 2022, and the second year in a row with an increase in capacity over 10%.

Of this capacity, 129,742 MW is under construction or permitted, and 338,373 MW is proposed or pending application.

A 49% plurality of all new generation capacity under development is for solar energy, followed by wind (34%) and natural gas (9%). However, three quarters of the wind capacity is in the “proposed” stage, which is the earliest and most uncertain stage of development and includes units that are least likely to be built.

Sixty-one percent of the generation capacity most likely to come online, permitted plants and plants that are under construction, are in solar A large majority of all future capacity is owned by non-utility generators.

Retirements and Cancellations

The report also provides information on retirements and planned retirements and cancellations over the past several years.

More than 30,000 MW of planned capacity developments were canceled in 2022. Wind and natural gas projects account for more than half of the cancellations from 2015-2022.

Capacity additions (27,755 MW) outpace the total capacity retired (16,121 MW) in 2022. A majority (78%) of the capacity retired in 2022 was from coal-fired facilities, with nearly 13,000 MW retired. Coal retirements in 2022 are double the capacity of coal plants retired in 2021. More than 41,000 MW in coal capacity is planned to be retired through 2027, which represents nearly a fifth of the current generating capacity of all coal-fired facilities.

Data analyzed for this report was taken from the Hitachi Energy Velocity Suite database, accessed January and February 2023.