U.S. Solar on Track for Record Year in 2016, Slowdown in ‘17
A spate of positive numbers point to a record-setting 2016 for renewable electricity generation in the United States, but clouds are gathering over 2017 for solar production, while the breezes seem fairer for wind, according to figures released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and reported by a variety of outlets.
“Electricity generation from wind, solar, and other renewable energy technologies have set monthly records every month so far in 2016,” DeSmog Blog reported, based on the EIA’s figures for the first half of the year.
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Total non-hydro renewable generation (biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind; utility and residential-scale combined) was up 17% from the same period in 2015. Utility-scale renewable generation rose 14.5%, with a 30.3% year-on-year increase in solar generation, and 23.5% in wind.
But buoyant as those numbers seem, all forms of renewables combined, including large hydro, met only 12% of U.S. power demand in the first half of 2016. Utility-scale wind accounted for 5.96%, utility-scale and distributed solar a mere 1.26%.
Moreover, several observers foresee a more mixed outlook for 2017. According to industry blog Utility Dive, the EIA anticipates that 2016’s 10% increase in utilities’ use of renewables will slow next year to only 4.3%. After adding a forecast eight gigawatts of solar, utilities will add just 5.3 GW in 2017. Wind, already producing five times more power than solar in the U.S., will increase its lead, adding 7.5 GW this year and 8.5 next.
The slowdown in solar may already be under way. UBS analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith told Utility Dive he had already seen a “drastic slowing” of residential solar installations and an “unprecedented” drop in postings for solar sales jobs.