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Solar, Battery Storage Leads the Way in New Electric Generation

Solar energy and battery storage will lead the way in additions to the U.S. electric generating capacity in 2024, a U.S. Energy Information Agency report says.

Data from the EIA’s Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory indicates that solar and battery storage will make up 81% of the 62.8 gigawatts (GW) of additional capacity that is expected to be added to the grid this year. The amount of new capacity will be 55% more than was added in 2023, and “points to a continued rise in industry activity,” the report states.

Solar will be the largest share of new capacity, representing 58%, followed by battery storage at 23%.

The increase in battery storage is notable, as the technology rapidly improves and enables more energy from intermittent renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to be stored and used to provide power to the grid during times they cannot produce energy. In addition to storing renewable energy, battery storage can also be used to balance grid supply during spikes in demand.

The EIA expects battery storage to nearly double in 2024, setting a new record for capacity additions. Developers plan to add 14.3 GW of storage this year to the 15.5 GW already online, with the states of Texas and California leading the way. “With the rise of solar and wind capacity in the United States, the demand for battery storage continues to increase,” the report states. It also noted the development of battery storage projects has been spurred by the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides investment tax credits for such stand-alone projects, rather than just those paired with solar projects.

At the same time that renewables are becoming a larger part of the energy mix, the EIA noted that just 2.5 GW of natural gas-fueled capacity is expected to be added, the lowest amount in 25 years. In another turnabout, the bulk of this year’s addition is expected to come from simple-cycle natural gas turbine plants, the first time since 2001 that combined-cycle plants were not the dominant source. Combined-cycle systems use heat generated by the gas turbines to create steam that also powers a steam turbine. The EIA noted that simple-cycle plants can ramp up and down very quickly, making them effective to meet demand surges.

With the demand for electricity continuing to rise, the EIA also noted that the amount of electric generating capacity expected to be retired this year will slow dramatically, down 62% from 2023, and the least since 2008. Most of the planned plant retirements are coal- or gas-fired, as a move away from fossil fuels continues to meet climate goals and tighter emissions standards.

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