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Solar and wind dominate new capacity additions this year: EIA

Solar and wind power installations will dominate new capacity additions in 2021, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Developers and power plant owners plan to build 39.7 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity in 2021 with solar and wind power accounting for 39 percent and 31 percent of that total, respectively, according to the EIA’s latest inventory of electricity generators. That translates to 15.4 GW of utility scale solar installations, a new record, and 12.2 GW of new wind power capacity.

EIA is tracking a total of 6.6 GW of natural gas-fired plants that are expected to come online this year. Most of those plants, 3.9 GW will be combined-cycle generators and most of the additions are planned for Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The planned solar capacity well surpasses the 12 GW installed last year. More than half of the new solar capacity is planned for Texas, Nevada, California, and North Carolina.

EIA expects another 4.1 GW of small-scale solar photovoltaic capacity to enter service in 2021.

The 12.2 GW of expected wind capacity additions, however, represents a sharp decline from the 21 GW of wind power that came online last year. This year’s expected increase in wind capacity is bolstered by two large projects, the 12-megawatt (MW) Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project sited 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, and the 999-MW Traverse wind farm in Oklahoma.

New battery energy storage capacity, however, is expected to see the largest jump in 2021, more than quadrupling to 4.3 GW, according to EIA data. The agency, part of the Department of Energy, cited the rapid growth of renewable generation as a major driver in the increase of storage capacity because the technology is increasingly bundled with renewable capacity. EIA noted that a 409-MW storage facility is under construction at the Manatee Solar Energy Center in Florida and slated to be the world's largest solar-powered battery when it comes online later this year.

The new year is also expected to see the commissioning of the first new nuclear power station in 30 years, the 2,200-MW Vogtle plant in Georgia, which will account for 3 percent of the total capacity expected online in 2021.