US clean energy reach 200 MW milestone but sees barriers ahead


Wind, utility solar, and battery storage power capacity in the United Stated surpassed 200 GW in 2021, following the commissioning of 28.5 GW of clean energy projects, according to the Clean Power Annual Market Report 2021 released by American Clean Power Association.

Although total capacity reached new milestone, installations remained flat when compared to 2020 levels due to a number of legislative challenges. The association also warned that if the country maintains last year’s project volume, it will only generate 35% of what is required to achieve net zero grid by 2035.

Despite recent growth trends, the pandemic and global supply chain snags have hampered renewable power growth, stated Heather Zichal, CEO at the ACP, adding that approximately 10 GW of clean power capacity that was scheduled to come online in 2021 have been delayed due to a variety of regulatory challenges.

Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, the uncertainty of renewable energy tax credits, the availability of solar panels, supply chain challenges, and inflation are all likely to have a negative impact on capacity growth, she added.

In 2021, clean energy dominated new power capacity expansions. A total of 594 projects came into operation, accounting for 81% of all new power capacity installations. Clean energy now provides 13% of the nation’s electricity, enough to power approximately 56 million homes.

Yet, the country’s transmission infrastructure was on the decline, with only 386 miles of transmission lines being installed in 2021. Transmission is crucial to ensuring the reliability of the power grid and the efficient integration of renewable energy resources. The report revealed that as renewable energy projects scale up, recent transmission expansions are just insufficient to support the clean energy transition.

Last year was the second largest year for wind installations after 2020, with 13,400 MW installed, bringing the total wind operating capacity in the United States to 135,843 MW.

Despite this, land-based wind capacity installations were down due to more than 5 GW of projects being delayed for a number of factors, such as supply chain issues, shipping and logistical constraints, inflation driving higher commodity prices, and interconnection delays.

In 2021, the utility solar sector in the United States added a record 12,433 MW of capacity, with its cumulative operating capacity amounting to 60,733 MW. Solar capacity additions increased by 20% year on year, even though nearly 6 GW of projects were postponed in 2021.

Wind and solar energy projects have considerable environmental and long-term health benefits. Wind and solar capacity online through 2021 can avoid an estimated 86 million cars’ worth of carbon emissions, or 398 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Besides, carbon emissions reductions might save more than US$20 billion in climate-related damages per year.

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