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2019: Solar’s Biggest Year Ever?

The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) has announced projections for energy capacity additions for 2019. These projections tout a lofty increase in both solar and wind.
… And while EIA did not include distributed solar in the graphics in a post in Today in Energy, it gave an estimate of new distributed solar via its Short-Term Energy Outlook. From these two sources we find 4.3 GWac of utility-scale solar and 3.9 GWac of distributed solar, modest market growth over we think was installed in 2018.
Overall, EIA expects solar and wind to dominate new capacity additions, as they have for most of the decade. 2018 may have been an exception to this rule, due to a rush to build gas plants mostly in the PJM Interconnection. We don’t have final 2018 numbers, but based on the projections by Wood Mackenzie and IHS Markit, it looked like the capacity of new natural gas plants was going to narrowly exceed that of combined new wind and solar.”
The retirement of several coal plants had dramatic effects on the market last year, with a resulting increase in spending on renewable resources, solar foremost among them. New solar utility is also projected to come online in Florida and Texas. While the EIA’s projections are hopeful, they may in fact be a little understated.
2019 looks like a return to a more reasoned pace, with wind and solar again dominating capacity additions. One of the biggest factors affecting the market in 2018 was the retirement of an estimated 11.9 GWac of coal plants, and EIA expects that pace to slow this year, with the retirement of the 2.3 GWac Navajo Generating Station making up roughly half of the 4.5 GWac of coal that is expected to retire in 2019.
In Today in Energy EIA touts that its track record for 12-month forecasts is solid. However, the organization also concedes that 660 MWac more solar came online in 2017 than was expected at the end of 2016, which is not hard to imagine given that in many ways solar development is still the Wild West, and the massive job involved in collecting data from every developer in the United States, and how projects don’t always happen on the timelines that developers are predicting.
Furthermore, the massive volumes of solar projects in the interconnection queues of grid operators suggest that much more solar could be coming than anyone has forecast.”
2019 is shaping up to be a big year in the world of renewable energy. This article is part of a larger picture of increased adoption of solar power both domestically and abroad. We are excited to continue our work of bringing clean energy and autonomy to those who seek it, and are encouraged by news like this. Let’s go, 2019!

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