How Fast Is Renewable Energy Growing In The Us?

How fast is renewable energy growing in the US?

Renewable energy has seen significant growth in the United States over the past decade. The thesis of this article is that renewable energy, particularly solar and wind, are rapidly expanding their share of total electricity generation as coal declines. Government policies, corporate investments, and public support are driving factors behind this growth. However, challenges remain for renewable energy to reach its full potential.

Current State of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy currently makes up around 11% of total energy generation in the United States as of 2020. This includes energy from sources like hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal. The main renewable sources are hydropower at around 6.5% of total generation, wind at 2.5%, and solar at 1.5%. While 11% may seem low, it represents significant growth, as renewable energy accounted for only 5% of total U.S. energy generation in 2010.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that nearly 20% of electricity generation in the U.S. now comes from renewable sources as of 2020. This is up from around 15% in 2010. The rise has been driven by growth in solar and wind generation. Around 3% of total U.S. energy consumption comes from renewable energy when looking across the electricity, transportation, heating, and industrial sectors.

California leads U.S. states in renewable energy generation, with Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and Oregon rounding out the top five. Texas produces the most wind energy of any state. The renewable energy field has seen rapid technology improvements and cost declines in recent years, helping drive growth.

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Growth of Solar

The solar industry has experienced massive growth in the United States over the past two decades. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar has seen an average annual growth rate of 24% since 2000 (Solar Industry Research Data | SEIA). In 2021 alone, the U.S. installed 23.6 gigawatts of new solar capacity, representing a 46% year-over-year increase (U.S. Solar Market Insight | SEIA). Residential solar also grew at a record pace, with over 3 gigawatts installed in 2021. Overall, total installed U.S. solar capacity has increased more than 50-fold over the past decade, from 1.2 gigawatts in 2011 to over 122 gigawatts at the end of 2021. Market analysts project that annual solar installations will continue growing at a rapid clip, with over 200 gigawatts of new capacity expected between 2022 and 2026.

Growth of Wind

Wind power capacity in the United States has seen tremendous growth over the past decade. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. had over 122 GW of installed wind capacity at the end of 2021, up from 93 GW in 2020, making it the top source for renewable energy generation in the country This growth is expected to continue, with projections that wind capacity could reach 330 GW by 2030.

A major driver of wind growth has been utility-scale wind farms, which account for most of the nation’s installed capacity. The average size of wind projects reached record levels in 2021, with projects averaging 180 MW according to the U.S. Department of Energy Larger turbines with taller towers have enabled these utility-scale wind farms to maximize energy production. The average hub height reached 114 meters in 2021, a 7% increase from the prior year.

Texas continues to lead the country with over 33 GW of installed wind capacity. Other top states include Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and California. Offshore wind is also starting to take off, with the first commercial scale projects coming online on the East Coast. According to the DOE, over 35 GW of offshore wind capacity is planned to be installed by 2030 As technology improves and costs decline, wind power is poised to supply an increasing share of America’s electricity.

Decline of Coal

The use of coal as an energy source in the United States has been declining steadily in recent years. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal is expected to provide just 18% of U.S. electricity generation this summer, down from 28% five years ago. A major factor driving this decline is the rise of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. The EIA predicts that higher renewable generation will cut coal’s share of electricity generation by nearly half between 2020 and 2022 (source).

Coal power plants are being retired at a rapid pace, with over 500 plants shutting down since 2010. Increased environmental regulations have made coal less economically viable, as coal plants require expensive upgrades to comply with emissions standards. The falling costs of natural gas and renewable energy sources have also made coal less competitive. Market forces driven by cheaper alternatives are accelerating coal’s decline, with no sign of it rebounding even as energy demand rises.

Government Policy

The US government has implemented various policies and incentives to support the growth of renewable energy over the past couple decades. Major policies include renewable portfolio standards, tax credits, loan guarantees, and other financial incentives. According to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) titled “U.S. Renewable Energy Policy and Industry” (, 29 states have renewable portfolio standards which require utilities to obtain a minimum percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. The federal government also provides investment tax credits, production tax credits, grants, and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and companies.

Some key policies boosting renewables are the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which established the first federal production tax credit for renewable energy, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which allocated over $90 billion in spending and tax incentives for clean energy programs. More recently, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 extended tax credits for wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewables to incentivize further growth in the sector.

Government regulations like the Clean Power Plan also aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector and shift generation towards renewables. Though federal policies have driven much of the growth, state policies like renewable portfolio standards have been crucial as well. Government incentives and regulations have played a major role in the rapid expansion of renewable energy generation over the past 10-15 years.

Corporate Investment

Many major corporations are making significant investments into renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. For example, Walmart, Amazon, Apple, IKEA and Tesco have all pledged to source 100% of their energy needs from renewables in the coming years. Some major oil companies like BP, Enbridge and TotalEnergies are also shifting their investments towards wind and solar projects to get ahead of the transition to clean energy. According to Deloitte, corporations purchased a record 23.7 gigawatts of clean energy through power purchase agreements in 2021, more than double the prior year. With renewables often being cheaper than fossil fuels now, more corporations are seeing the value in investing in solar and wind projects to power their operations and meet sustainability goals.

Public Opinion

Recent polls show strong public support for expanding renewable energy in the United States. According to a Pew Research Center survey from March 2022, 69% of Americans said the more important energy priority for the country should be developing renewable sources like wind and solar power. This was much higher than the 22% who said producing fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal should be the priority.

Another Pew survey from June 2023 found that 82% of U.S. adults favor expanding solar panel farms and 75% favor building more wind turbine farms. At the same time, only 31% supported completely phasing out fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Overall, a majority of Americans seem to favor transitioning to renewable energy while maintaining at least some fossil fuel production in the interim (cite:

Challenges to Growth

While renewable energy is seeing strong growth in the US, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. Two key challenges are grid limitations and land use conflicts.

The US power grid was not designed to handle large amounts of intermittent renewable energy from sources like wind and solar. Significant investments need to be made in transmission infrastructure and grid management technologies to enable the integration of more renewables onto the grid (Business Insider, 2022). Grid modernization is a slow and costly process.

In addition, the large land requirements for utility-scale renewable energy projects can create conflicts with existing land uses and local communities. For example, wind and solar farms require thousands of acres of land which could disrupt agricultural operations, wildlife habitats or residential areas (Yale Climate Connections, 2021). Careful planning and community engagement is needed to site projects responsibly.

Overcoming these grid and land use challenges will be critical for renewable energy to continue its rapid growth in the US. Investment in transmission, grid upgrades, and innovative siting solutions will help address these obstacles (IEFFA, 2022).


In summary, renewable energy has experienced rapid growth in the United States over the last decade, driven by favorable economics, government policy support, and increasing public demand. The most significant growth has come from solar and wind power. Solar capacity is projected to grow over 200% by 2030 based on current trends and policies, while wind capacity could double in the next 5 years (IEA).

Fossil fuels like coal continue to decline, with over 200 coal plants retired in the last decade. Renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels, and with battery storage technology improving, their growth is likely to accelerate. Companies and utilities are investing billions into new renewable projects to meet state clean energy standards and customer demand.

While reaching 100% renewable energy by 2030 is unlikely, experts project renewables could provide over 50% of U.S. electricity by the end of this decade if current trends continue. Realizing this potential will require smart policy, transmission system upgrades, and continuing public pressure on governments and companies to act urgently on climate change. The transition to a clean energy economy is well underway but must be rapidly scaled up to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

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