The U.S. installed a record 6.62 GW of utility-scale onshore wind, solar, and storage capacity in the first quarter of 2022, an 11.5% increase from one year ago, said the American Clean Power Association in a new report, but it is concerned that signs of a slowdown are growing.
Battery storage was the biggest growth catalyst, with 758 MW of new capacity—up 173% from the same quarter in 2021, with 24 projects completed, according to the report.
There are nearly 1,100 projects in the pipeline totaling 125.5 GW of operating capacity, including 40.5 GW of projects under construction and about 85 GW in advanced development. There was 40.52 GW of solar, battery and onshore wind capacity under construction in 43 states as of March 31, with Texas, California, Wyoming and Nevada leading the country.
But renewable energy project progress is slowing, growing by 4% in the first quarter compared to 12% quarterly in 2021, said the association.
The 3 GW of solar installations were also a record for the period and an 11% increase from last year's first quarter, although 8.6 GW of projects scheduled to come online are delayed later into 2022, to 2023 or beyond. Solar projects made up 58% of all projects delayed, said the group's report.
Onshore wind installations fell 3% to 2.86 GW compared to the same 2021 quarter, but these still represented good performance historically for the period, according to the report.
The survey also reported 18 offshore wind projects totaling nearly 17.5 GW in development that have off-take contracts, but none are yet at the in-ocean construction stage. Nine states have set offshore wind targets totaling nearly 45 GW, with New York breaking ground this year on the second utility scale project in the country, South Fork, and the U.S. Interior Dept. holding a lease auction in the N.Y. Bight south of Manhattan that netted a record $4.37 billion.
In Massachusetts, utilities National Grid, Unitil Corp. and Eversource Energy on May 25 filed long-term plans with the state to buy power from two planned offshore wind projects, Commonwealth Wind and Mayflower Wind, which would add 1.6 GW to New England’s power grid when on line later in the decade. Avangrid Renewables is developing Commonwealth Wind, and Shell PLC, EDP Renewables and Engie are developers of Mayflower Wind.
Industry participants, however, are watching the progress of a House bill, passed in March, that would require crews on foreign-flagged vessels operating in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf on offshore wind projects to have U.S. citizenship.
“The record-breaking quarter for clean power is encouraging, but the industry still faces many hurdles that are stalling growth,” said association CEO Heather Zichal, citing the impacts of inflation, supply chain delays, the “unsettled fate” of clean energy tax credits and ongoing uncertainty related to a U.S. Commerce Dept. solar tariff probe—which could levy retroactive tariffs on import of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells assembled in Southeast Asia with alleged Chinese-made components. It may not be resolved until August, at the earliest.
The controversy has led to leading utility solar developers indicating that at least 65% of the forecasted 17GW of crystalline silicon capacity additions to the grid this year could be delayed or cancelled, said Zichal, mostly due to disruptions in component imports. These issues are “making investment and planning decisions a difficult challenge,” she added.