US Power Capacity Changes from 2010 to 2020 — CleanTechnica Charts

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With US power capacity data in for the end of 2020, I thought it would be a good time to see how US power capacity has changed over the past decade.

Using data from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, I’ve created two new charts that highlight the shifts that took place over those 10 years. In addition to the charts, I break down how the market share of these different energy sources has changed. At the end of the article, you can view interactive charts — just note that they often don’t display well on small devices (i.e., phones), so are better viewed on a laptop/desktop computer.

One thing to highlight before jumping into the comparisons: overall power capacity across the United States changed very little in those 10 years. The total power capacity of the nation at the end of December 2010 was 1,132.68 gigawatts (GW), whereas the total power capacity of the nation at the end of December 2020 was just slightly higher at 1,217.23 GW.

One more note: this report does not take into account small-scale solar (primarily rooftop solar).

First of all, you can see that solar power capacity went from almost nothing (1.12 GW) to being a sizable player on the market (52.58 GW). In percentage terms, it went from 0.10% to 4.32% in that time.

Wind power, meanwhile, went from 3.4% to 9.8% — an increase of 81.17 GW over the decade.

There was one big loser over that time period, and a smaller loser. Coal power capacity collapsed, going from 30.37% market share to 19.65%. In total, 104.73 GW of coal power were taken offline. Similarly (but on a smaller scale), oil went from 5.4% to 3.2%. On the flip side, natural gas grew from 40.8% to 44.3%, and increase of 77.44 GW from December 2010 to December 2020.

Combining all of the renewable energy options together, renewables stand out much more boldly. They accounted for 13.8% of US power capacity at the end of 2010 and then 22.2% of the country’s power capacity at the end of 2020. In absolute terms, renewables grew from 156.1 GW in December 2010 to 294.12 GW in December 2020.

Yes, the country still has a long way to go in order to see the renewable revolution fully come to life, and in order to put to bed the idea that natural gas should be a growing power source on the market, but the renewable energy growth of the past 10 years is certainly a positive story. Also, since this just covers large-scale power plants, remember that the results for solar power and renewables as a whole would look a bit better if small-scale solar was added in.

Here are interactive versions of the charts above (hover over the bars to see total installed capacity at the end of 2010 versus the end of 2020):

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