Solar and wind generation will soon pass nuclear, hydro 2024-05-24

In a new monthly column for pv magazine, the International Solar Energy Society (ISES) explains how solar and wind are dominating power plant construction.

ISES pv magazine column in April showed that the fastest energy change in history is continuing. In 2023, solar and wind together constituted 80% of global net power capacity additions. Growth in power capacity is by growth in annual energy generation.

Over the past decade, global solar generation has grown ninefold to reach 1,500 TWh per year while wind generation has tripled to 2300 TWh per year. This corresponds to compound growth rates of 22% and 11% per year respectively. In contrast, hydro, nuclear and coal generation had growth rates of about 1% per year, and gas 3%.

The solar growth rate of 22% per year is equivalent to doubling every 3 years. At this growth rate, solar generation will reach 100,000 TWh per year in 2042 which is enough to fully decarbonize the global economy.

Nuclear has a global average capacity factor of 74%, by coal (50% to 70%), combined cycle gas (40% to 60%), wind (30% to 60%), large hydro (30% to 50%), and solar photovoltaics (12% to 25%).

Despite its relatively low capacity factor, solar generation is tracking to surpass nuclear generation in 2026, wind in 2027, hydro in 2028, gas in 2030 and coal in 2032.

Solar and wind are strongly dominating powerplant construction, whereas construction of all other generation technologies is both small and stagnant. Coal, gas and nuclear could be mostly gone by mid-century once retirements outpace new construction.

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