A U.S. government study shows that solar-plus-storage is starting to dominate the national grid cohort, representing most new power plant applications.
As the fleet of electricity generation projects on the U.S. grid continues to grow, so does its makeup. Solar power and batteries are starting to dominate America’s energy future.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Electricity Markets and Policy Group (EMP) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released its annual Grid Cohort Update report. The U.S. generation fleet can accommodate more than 1TWac of generation capacity. This year, more than 600 GWac of new capacity has been added to the generation fleet, provided by more than 3,000 unique projects.
By the end of 2021, the total solar capacity in the generation fleet is 676 GWac/~845 GWdc. About 85% of the new capacity will be provided by solar and storage facilities. The combined solar and storage capacity currently exceeds 285 GWac.
Essentially, the utility-scale California solar market is now a “solar + storage market.” The total storage capacity in the queue exceeds 400GW.
The EMP team noted that there is currently no data on how long the batteries can hold. The authors estimate that the average storage time of the battery can reach at least two and a half hours, which would bring the total capacity to more than 1 terawatt-hour.
About 80% of solar capacity will be connected to the grid by the end of 2024, but only 13% of solar projects have signed electricity interconnection agreements. In some markets, electricity interconnection agreements are signed before projects find buyers, the report noted. In these markets, some projects have been approved for power interconnection, but the projects have not been built.
This is fully reflected in the sharing of the full sample, and we see that the number of withdrawn projects is almost three times the number of operational projects:
o 8,133 “Cctive” projects
o 12,585 “Withdrawal” projects
o 3,439 “Operational” projects
o 229 “Pause” items
Across all regions, the completion rate of solar projects is 16%, which is lower than the national average.
As the saying goes, “you won’t know if the pudding is good until you eat it”, and PJM’s pudding is a good proof. The grid management group said solar and wind applications had dominated and, after reassessing its own processes, proposed closing all new electricity interconnection applications over the next two years.
The report noted that from 2015 to 2021, the time from filing an interconnection application to approval of an interconnection application increased dramatically to more than three years—except for the Electric Reliability Commission of Texas (ERCOT) service area.
In all of these challenges, one statistic speaks for itself. Last year, pv magazine reported that the current grid fleet is already capable of meeting 85% of the 1.1 TWac generating capacity required for the US clean grid. A report released this year by the EMP confirms this figure.
Additionally, the capacity covered in this document includes only 85% of the national utility’s utility-scale projects. For example, the hundreds of megawatts of capacity deployed in Hawaii, the gigawatts of community-distributed solar capacity in New York, and the after-table market in Massachusetts are not counted.
At the very least, the 6.6 GW of generation capacity deployed in 2021 will not be on the list.