I agree that things are looking up. Let’s put it into perspective given that we’re also going to be living in the age of Trump. Electricity data is wonderfully curated by DoE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA is the clearing house for US and international energy production and consumption. Only god knows what Rick Perry will do with DoE. My guess is that he’ll privatize EIA and the data will be put behind a paywall. We may need to backup EIA data along with climate data. Anyway…here’s where all energy data sits
And data on electricity including renewables here:
You can make your own graphs and tables as you please
US solar generation (both utility and distributed) is presented below. The nice thing about solar is it finally shows up on the full scale graph along with other generation methods— now that EIA includes both sources mentioned above. Many renewables folks complain that EIA is missing data. That’s more of a problem for distributed solar sellers, since they tend to pride themselves on being off the grid. And the solar sector interest group SEIA puts data behind a paywall. However, SEIA has reported that US has installed 35.8 gigawatts (GW) of solar as of December. EIA’s generation data in the charts below match SEIA data pretty well — so the old “EIA is in the pocket of fossil fuel” whine doesn’t really have traction much anymore. Generation is capacity times hours operated or gigawatt hours (GWh).
The thing about reporting capacity installs (GW) is that solar generates electricity only 20 percent of the time, compared to nuke at about 90% and fossil fuels ranging from 50% to 90%. Wind generates electricity around 25 to 50% of the time. So solar would need 4.5 times more capacity installed (and battery backup) to equal the capacity of nuke. A 1 GW nuke plant is equivelent to 4.5 GW of PV solar — as far as average generation goes. That’s what we need for charging our cell phones.
But, that doesn’t matter if solar is cheap and batteries, too. However, from the graph below, the solar boom looks more boomish if the graph scale is right. Compared to the the scale of the first graph, solar seems to be limping along. On the other renewables graph, it’s plugging and chugging pretty well, compared to hydro and wind. On the graph by itself, solar is booming. It’s yuuge.
So as long as Trump doesn’t screw with renewables deployment then we’ll be OK. As far as market outlook goes, solar still needs training wheels. It isn’t a good assumption to assume solar can do it without governmental support. Solar isn’t making enough money to fund its own research and needs buyers like big government purchase at DoD facilities. It also needs free trade with China and free giga factories in Buffalo. Getting folks hopes too high about free market climate change mitigation isn’t good form — if the hopes are dashed by Trump’s cabinet — with a stroke of the pen.