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U.S. Sets Another Record for Clean Energy Additions

The U.S. had a “landmark year” for clean energy in 2023, with more capacity installed than in any previous year.

The American Clean Power Association (ACP) recently released its annual market report, which found that the U.S. added 33.8 gigawatts (GW) of new utility-scale energy projects, breaking the prior record set in 2021 by 12.5%. The U.S. now has 262 GW of clean energy in the electric grid, which is enough to power the equivalent of 69 million homes.

Indeed, more than 75% of all new power brought online last year was from clean energy sources, with strong years for both solar and battery storage.

The new record was set despite a challenging year for the wind power sector, which added just 6.4 GW of on- and off-shore capacity. “This slowdown was attributed largely to policy uncertainty, high costs of capital, long permitting processes, siting barriers, and a challenging environment for building new transmission,” the report indicates.

Solar and battery storage more than made up for the weakness in wind energy, and the combination of solar, wind and storage accounted for 77% of new capacity. Utility-scale solar had an “exceptional year” with nearly 20 GW added across 40 states. The ACP report attributed this to favorable federal policies and decreasing costs. More solar projects will be added in future years with more than 92 GW of power in development.

At the same time, battery storage almost doubled its installed capacity, with about 8 GW of new capacity, bringing the operating total to 17 GW. This growth was attributed to a new tax credit for standalone storage facilities, the boom in solar power that necessitates storage to capture excess energy for use during peak demand, and lower prices for battery materials.

The trend is expected to continue in 2024. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently reported that solar energy 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 EIA estimates.

The ACP report noted that “corporate buyers are playing an important role in driving up clean energy demand by purchasing clean power for their operations.” The top three commercial power buyers were Amazon, Meta, and Google, all of which use huge amounts of electricity to power their data networks.

While the trend toward clean energy brings optimism, the ACP noted that even the record-setting pace of additions still does not meet what is needed for the U.S. to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

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