Solar is expected to generate 14% more electricity than hydroelectric facilities next year, thanks to the growth of new utility-scale and small-scale solar facilities, the Energy Information Administration said in a Tuesday report.
If solar energy performs as forecasted in 2024, it will be the first time in the U.S. that solar has annually generated more electricity than hydropower, EIA said in its monthly Short Term Energy Outlook. Solar first outpaced hydropower on a monthly basis in September 2022, generating 19 billion kWh compared to hydropower’s 17 billion kWh.
Solar outpaced hydropower again over the summer “due to exponential growth in installed solar capacity,” EIA said.
“From 2009 to 2022, installed solar capacity increased at an average rate of 44% per year, and installed hydroelectric capacity increased by less than 1% each year,” the agency said.
EIA’s report estimates that renewable energy’s share of U.S. generation, including hydro, will rise from 22% to 24% in 2024, while natural gas and coal are expected to each drop one point to 41% and 15%, respectively.
Annual wind generation passed annual hydropower generation in 2019, EIA said, and “the growth of U.S. solar and U.S. wind generation are following a similar pattern.”
Hydropower generation was also negatively impacted by weather patterns this year. Though solar and wind are subject to weather impacts, “the biggest contributor to additional generation from these sources is they have had the fastest growth in generating capacity,” said the agency.
Solar capacity installations bounced back in 2023 after a slight decline in 2022, with the Solar Energy Industries Association predicting in a September report that a total of 32 GW will be installed this year — outperforming the group’s March forecast of 28.4 GW.