By Christian Roselund
The latest information from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) documents major delays and potentially cancellations of utility-scale solar projects in the United States during the first half of 2021. Chiefly, EIA noted that the 4.2 gigawatts-AC of utility-scale solar projects that came online in the first half of 2022 is less than half the volume that developers anticipated.
EIA found that 20% of planned H1 2022 solar capacity was delayed but did not indicate what had happened to the other projects that did not come online. Most of these delays were for less than six months. EIA cites several factors for the delays, including “economic factors, such as supply chain constraints, labor shortages, and high prices of components” as well as “issues with obtaining permits or testing equipment.” EIA did not mention the impact of the Withhold Release Order (WRO) on Hoshine Silicon, under which multiple gigawatts of modules were detained for three to eight months before being released. It is CEA’s assessment that this WRO was a major factor in creating a supply-constrained market for solar panels in H1 2022, particularly when combined with the other factors that EIA cites.
EIA estimates that 1.9 gigawatts-AC of solar projects under construction have been delayed but will still come online in 2022, with another 1.7 gigawatts of solar projects delayed to 2023. EIA also does not mention the effects of detentions under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). Under UFLPA solar modules made by at least three of the largest PV module makers have been detained. Some of these companies have either reduced shipments to the U.S. market or are insisting on terms that shift all risk to buyers, and that buyers are reluctant to agree to. Despite these headwinds EIA expects the share of renewable energy in annual U.S. electricity generation to grow from 20% in 2021 to 22% in 2022, and 24% in 2023. The growth in renewable penetration is driven by increased deployment of wind and solar. Across regions EIA finds that the Northwest, Rocky Mountains, and California have the highest portion of electricity from renewables and expects these regions to get more than 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2023.
Two other regions are notable for their rapid progress in deployment of renewables. The share of renewables in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) grid, which covers the Great Plains Region, rose from 13% in 2013 to 40% in 2021. EIA expects it to reach 44% in 2022. EIA expects renewables to represent 32% of Texas’ generation in 2022.
Source: Utility-scale solar projects report delays (EIA)
Source: EIA expects renewables to account for 22% of U.S. electricity generation in 2022 (EIA)