New gas plant capacity plummeted in the third quarter of 2019, leaving renewables a strong majority of new power generation — although much less new power plant capacity was added as compared to earlier quarters. The proportion of distributed solar grew for the third quarter in a row, doubling its share as compared to quarter two. Utility solar and wind also increased their proportions of new generation this quarter.
Altogether, total new power generation capacity dropped to 3 gigawatts, or half of what it was in the first and second quarters of 2019.
In the chart below, we illustrate the past two years of new power plant capacity in the U.S., disaggregated by energy source on a quarterly basis.
Gas Nearly Drops Off of the Map
This quarter, gas hit its lowest proportion of new capacity since the first quarter of 2016. Quarterly new gas capacity has dropped below a gigawatt only five times since 2014.
Gas took a hit this quarter in more than just power plant construction. In July, Berkeley, Calif., became the first city to ban gas hookups to new multifamily residential buildings. Berkeley’s gas ban was the first in what has now become a string of similar bans, including San Jose and San Luis Obispo in California, and Brookline, Mass. These cities are trailblazers in exercising local authority in the interests of residents. As more cities follow their lead, new homes around the country will become healthier for families, while reducing their emissions.
Solar and Wind Continue Steady Growth
Utility-scale and distributed solar both saw growth this quarter, but distributed solar has once again outshone large-scale deployments. New distributed solar hit nearly a gigawatt (983 MW) and rounded out 8 quarters of more than 850 megawatts of new capacity. As the federal solar tax credit is set to decline, customers and developers rush to construct projects before the end of 2019.
Ever-developing community solar programs promise continued growth in distributed solar. Several states have recently passed community solar enabling legislation, while projects in states that previously passed the legislation are close to interconnection. The established programs in Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, and Minnesota are progressing steadily (as seen in ILSR’s new National Community Solar Programs Tracker).
Despite some recent local campaigns against it, wind saw steady growth from last quarter and a comparable new capacity to the third quarter of 2018.
The third quarter of 2019 has shown that support for renewables has not stalled out, even though some tax credits might. As cities take action against gas, pass clean energy commitments, and enable programs for local renewables, the outlook is good for clean energy.