Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing record job losses for the renewable energy industry, slowing construction activity and threatening developers' access to capital, the U.S. saw strong capacity additions for wind and solar power during 2020.
But questions remain about the long-term effects the pandemic will have on projects. An analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence shows a pipeline of 172.5 GW of capacity for wind and solar projects through 2024. Of that, 75.7 GW are wind power projects while 96.8 GW are solar power projects, the data shows.
While some of the projects may not cross the finish line, especially those in early development phases, wind and solar projects totaling 30.7 GW of capacity are now under construction. Meanwhile, 18.2 GW of projects are in advanced development, 109.3 GW are in early development, and developers announced 14.1 GW of new projects.
More than 5.4 GW of wind projects under construction are scheduled for completion in 2021, while 4.3 GW of solar projects under construction are scheduled for completion in 2021, the data shows.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in November that wind's share of U.S. electricity generation increased to 8.8% in 2020, the highest of any renewable energy resource.
Most of the capacity in the pipeline for wind power projects, 40.6 GW, is in early development, according to the data. Meanwhile, wind power projects totaling 18.7 GW are under construction, 10.1 GW are in advanced development, and developers have announced 6.1 GW of capacity for new projects.
Solar power in 2019 accounted for 1.8% of U.S. utility-scale generating capacity, according to the EIA. But solar has a more robust development pipeline than wind power as its use surges in the U.S. Southeast, Texas and California and as developers increasingly pair solar power with battery storage projects, S&P Global Market Intelligence data shows.
Like wind power, most of the capacity in the solar power pipeline, 68.6 GW, through 2024 is in early development, according to the data. Projects totaling 11.9 GW of solar power capacity are under construction, 8.1 GW are in advanced development, and developers have announced 8 GW of new solar projects, according to the data.
NextEra Energy has the largest pipeline for U.S. wind and solar projects, with projects totaling 13.6 GW of capacity under development, 8.3 GW of which is solar capacity.
The Juno Beach, Fla.-headquartered company develops renewable energy projects through its competitive business, NextEra Energy Resources LLC. The company's 2020 renewable energy project pipeline grew by 21% from the previous year.
Apex Clean Energy Inc. has the next largest renewable energy project pipeline, with 12.2 GW of solar and wind power projects, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. It is the largest owner of wind power projects under development, with 9.5 GW of wind power capacity.
The Charlottesville, Va.-based developer has been among the renewable energy developers capitalizing on growing corporate demand for renewable energy, especially from tech companies with data centers.
Chicago-based Invenergy LLC has 6.6 GW of wind power capacity under development, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. It is also pursuing large-scale solar projects. The developer said in November that it plans to build the 1,310-MW Samson Solar Energy Center in Texas, which is expected to be the largest solar energy facility in the U.S. upon its completion in 2023.
EDF Group of France has 2.9 GW of solar power capacity in its development pipeline. Macquarie Green Investment Group has projects totaling 2.5 GW of wind power capacity under development, while RWE AG has 2.4 GW of wind capacity and Engie SA has 2.2 GW of wind capacity, the data shows.
Wind and solar developers are hopeful that they will see a friendlier regulatory environment under President-elect Joe Biden. A bipartisan relief package signed into law by President Donald Trump included billions for federal energy research as well as a one-year extension of the land-based wind power production tax credit at 60% of its full value and a two-year extension of the solar energy investment tax credit at 26%.