Power Capacity Changes

Natural Gas and Renewable Capacity Changes

Power Capacity Changes
Photo by Thomas Despeyroux / Unsplash
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A common talking point against renewables is the intermittency and low capacity factors of wind and solar, resulting in necessary backup power generation for peak demand and fluctuating wind and solar patterns. Or so the story goes...

We took a look at capacity changes in the top-5 renewable states in the U.S, - Texas, California, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas - to analyze the change in wind & solar capacity vs natural gas generation capacity to see if the talking point holds water

EIA datasets were used to calculate historical capacity by fuel type and capacity additions from 2000 to 2022 were reviewed

There appears to be little evidence a wind & solar built-out will require a concurrent fossil fuel backup generation build-out

Indeed, since 2006 the top-5 states have increased wind & solar generation capacity by more than 70x the amount of net natural gas capacity additions

Top-5 U.S. Renewable States

The data suggests little correlation to wind and solar capacity additions and the need to add significant concurrent natural gas intermediate or peaking capacity. Indeed, since 2000 Kansas added 13.1x more wind and solar capacity than natural gas capacity; Iowa 7.9x, Texas 2.4x, California 2.0x and Oklahoma 1.8x.

Look at Kansas - wind went from 0 MW to 8,000 MW since 2000, nearly doubling the amount of current gas capacity.  Only 600 MW of natural gas power capacity has been added while the 8,000 MW wind was added.

Combined, the top-5 renewable states grew wind and solar power capacity by 2.5x more than natural gas capacity from 2000 to 2022.  

But timeframes matter.  From 2006 to 2022 the same five states increased their aggregate wind and solar capacity by 72x more than their combined natural gas power capacity increase.

Acceleration, exponential growth or whatever we want to call it, the trend is even more a friend for renewable generation capacity growth with the Inflation Reduction Act signed, sealed and delivered.