The increasing importance of renewable energy from solar panels and wind turbines in the United States is driven by the rapid decline in costs for these technologies. This shift toward sustainable energy sources is critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. In addition to environmental benefits, renewable energy projects provide job opportunities and support local economies, aligning with the country’s commitment to carbon pollution reduction in the upcoming decades.
WeatherPower™ daily forecasts provide valuable insights into the influence of weather on local solar and wind energy generation in the U.S. This information provides a snapshot of solar and wind energy production on any given day at the local scale.
The report, WeatherPower Year in Review: 2022, utilizes data from Climate Central and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to analyze solar and wind capacity and generation in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia during 2022. Comparing data across states and against figures from the previous year determined which regions experienced the most growth in solar and wind energy. Moreover, the analysis highlights America’s progress toward achieving net-zero carbon pollution by 2050.
Further, the report highlights two distinct metrics, capacity and generation, which serve as separate indicators for evaluating renewable energy in the United States. Capacity refers to the quantity and scale of operational solar and wind installations, while generation measures the amount of energy generated by these installations, which is influenced by weather conditions such as solar irradiation and wind velocity.
In 2022, the two states with the highest solar capacity were California and Texas, with 28,493 MW and 12,702 MW, respectively. Texas had the greatest increase in solar capacity between 2021 and 2022, adding 1,664 MW, while California added 1,308 MW.
In terms of wind power, Texas led in 2022 with a capacity of 37,365 MW, followed by Iowa with 12,259 MW and Oklahoma with 11,715 MW. Texas also had the largest increase in wind capacity from 2021 to 2022, adding 3,034 MW, while Oklahoma added 1,303 MW.
The United States achieved a notable increase in electricity generation through the combined utilization of solar and wind sources, amounting to approximately 683,130 gigawatt-hours (GWh) during 2022. This represents a significant rise from the previous year, where approximately 588,471 GWh was generated. Based on the average retail price of electricity at 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this increase in electricity generation corresponds to a revenue of $82 billion. Specifically, solar power contributed approximately 183,284 GWh, generating $22 billion in revenue, while wind power contributed approximately 499,846 GWh, generating $60 billion in revenue.
April proved to be the highest-producing month nationwide, with a combined total of 73,540 GWh. It is worth noting that solar energy production peaks during the summer months, as a result of longer days and the sun’s direct rays impacting the United States more intensely. In the year 2022, July, June, and May stood out as the months with the highest solar power production across the country, generating 20,919 GWh, 20,829 GWh, and 19,954 GWh respectively.
On the other hand, wind energy production sees its peak during the spring and fall seasons. In 2022, the months of April (55,831 GWh) and March (50,050 GWh) experienced the highest levels of wind energy production in the United States. Additionally, the EIA reported that wind power was the second-largest source of electricity on March 29th, indicating the significant contribution of this form of energy to the nation’s power grid.
What States Generated the Most Solar and Wind Power in 2022?
In 2022, the state of California led the United States in solar power generation, producing a total of 58,664,084 megawatt-hours (MWh). Texas and Florida followed with 22,863,146 MWh and 13,595,456 MWh, respectively. North Carolina and Arizona ranked fourth and fifth with 11,532,539 MWh and 10,408,801 MWh, respectively. Texas experienced the largest increase in MWh of solar power generation from 2021 to 2022, with an increase of 6,252,720 MWh. California followed with an increase of 4,722,732 MWh.
Regarding wind power, Texas generated the most in the country, producing 129,578,478 MWh in 2022. Iowa followed with 48,442,412 MWh, while Oklahoma and Kansas produced 45,757,509 MWh and 34,239,591 MWh, respectively. Texas also saw the largest increase in MWh of wind generation from 2021 to 2022, with an increase of 19,081,615 MWh. Iowa trailed behind with an increase of 8,857,850 MWh, and Oklahoma came third with an increase of 7,538,338 MWh.
U.S. Commitment to Net Zero by 2050
The United States government has pledged to eliminate net carbon pollution by 2050, aligning with the global objectives of the Paris Agreement. To achieve this target, it is imperative to foster the growth of renewable energy. Various studies have explored the rate at which renewable energy capacity must expand in the US to attain the 2050 goals.
One such study is the Net-Zero America Project (NZAP) from Princeton University, which has set specific milestones between 2025 and 2050 to track progress towards the net-zero objective. According to NZAP’s high-electrification pathway, the US must have solar and wind utility-scale capacity of 324 GW and 419 GW, respectively, by 2030 to stay on course. However, if the current pace of solar and wind capacity growth continues, the US will fail to meet the 2030 benchmarks.
Nonetheless, the adoption of the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022 is expected to accelerate the expansion of renewable electricity capacity in the US. A report published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in January 2023 suggests that up to 202 GW of solar and 68 GW of wind installations (utility-scale) could be installed by November 2025.