Will 2024 be the Year of Solar Energy?

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting that 2024 will be the year that solar energy generation exceeds hydropower. And not by a little but by a significant amount. The same thing happened for wind energy production in 2019, and it’s been the largest renewable energy source ever since. 

There are a few key factors involved that have led to solar power production outpacing hydropower. Let’s dig into the recent data that project 2024 will be the year of solar energy.

Hydroelectric Energy Production Has Stalled

For many years, hydropower was the driving force behind clean energy production in America. It was the result of huge construction projects that took years to develop and thousands of man hours to build.

The heydey of hydropower production was between the 1930s and 1960s. That era saw historic undertakings like the construction of the Hoover Dam. But hydroelectric power generation has actually declined since 2019. That’s not too surprising given two things:

  • Hydroelectric production has been relatively flat for the last 30+ years.
  • Hydropower generation installation increased less than 1% annually between 2009 to 2022.

Of course, this in no way discredits the electricity that’s generated by hydropower sources. The amount of green electricity that’s generated is substantial. Most years hydropower utilities produce around 80 gigawatts of electricity. And there will still be months when hydropower produces more than solar power. Hydropower remains an important part of the U.S. energy infrastructure as we transition to using more green energy sources.

You may be wondering why there’s been so little investment in increasing hydropower production if it’s a viable source of renewable energy. There are several contributing factors that have come into play:

  • Hydropower installations are usually massive civil engineering projects that take a lot of time to complete.
  • Hydropower projects tend to be very expensive, making it cost inhibitive. 
  • There are a limited number of sites that can be used for hydropower generation. As far as large-scale projects go, America has pretty much already utilized all of its best sites.
  • There are environmental issues related to damming rivers and creating reservoirs that can cause damage.

And there’s one other big reason for the decline in hydropower installations. Another more readily available option for renewable energy exists – solar. 

Solar Energy Production Up All Around

The other side of this story is what’s happening with solar energy production. It’s been a far different trajectory for solar energy over the last 13 years. Since 2010 solar electric power generation has skyrocketed. Utility-scale solar energy production alone went from relatively nothing to over 70 gigawatts a year in 2022. 

If you keep up with energy production in America you may remember when monthly solar energy production surpassed hydropower for the first time ever in September 2022. The same feat was repeated in 2023. 

The big news for solar energy production is that it’s increasing across the board. Both small-scale energy production and utility-scale production is up and has been trending that way year-over-year for some time. Each on their own wouldn’t surpass the amount of hydropower that’s generated, but together they should far exceed hydropower generation next year.

In the coming years we may see each type of solar power source outpace hydropower. Unlike hydropower, there’s been a substantial increase in solar installation projects over the last decade. Solar power installations have increased year-over-year by an astounding 44%. With the solar energy tax incentives, small-scale solar installations should continue at that same fast pace.

There are seasonal fluctuations that impact solar and hydropower generation, but collectively 2024 should be the year when solar energy production finally becomes the second biggest renewable resource for powering the U.S. Data from the latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) reports suggests that by the end of the year around 14% more solar energy should have been generated than hydropower.

Whether solar energy production will ever exceed wind energy production remains to be seen. Wind power is growing at a pace similar to solar, and it already generates 140+ gigawatts of electricity a year, which is about twice as much as solar energy generation. 

Verde Energy helps consumers take advantage of clean solar power even if they can’t install a solar panel system or they rent a home. All of our green energy plans are 100% powered by renewable energy. Use your zip code to see which Verde Energy green power plans are currently available in your area.

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