Apr 9, 2024 - News

Utah's solar power production soared over the past decade

Data: Climate Central; Note: Includes both utility-scale and small-scale solar generation; Chart: Axios Visuals

Utah's solar power production has grown exponentially since 2014, despite efforts to keep the state's coal plants open.

Why it matters: Solar and wind power are producing a comparatively small but growing share of America's overall energy supply — yet they make up a bigger slice of the energy pie in some states, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick reports.

By the numbers: Utah generated 4,823 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from solar power and 684 GWh from wind power in 2023, per the analysis from Climate Central, a climate research nonprofit. That's enough to power over half a million homes.

  • Just 39 GWh of electricity was produced from solar energy in 2014.
  • Meanwhile, wind power production in Utah, which lacks sustained high-wind areas, has remained steady since 2014.

State of play: Gov. Spencer Cox signed a contested bill last month to prevent a coal plant near Delta from closing amid pushback from environmental groups.

The big picture: Solar installations generated nearly 240,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity across the U.S. in 2023, per Climate Central.

  • That's eight times higher than 2014 production, the group says.
  • Wind generation hit about 425,000 GWh last year — double that of a decade ago.

Context: "Together, these two renewable energy sources generated enough electricity in 2023 to power the equivalent of more than 61 million average American homes," per Climate Central.

Zoom out: California, Texas and Florida are leading the country in terms of solar power generation, while Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma are the leaders in wind energy.

  • In California, 68,816 GWh of electricity came from solar power in 2023, up 9% from 2022.
  • Meanwhile, Texas wind turbines generated 119,836 GWh of electricity in 2023, up 4% from 2022.

Alex's thought bubble: Geography plays a role here — obviously, solar and wind power make more sense in sunnier and breezier regions — as do state policies and incentives.

Reality check: Wind and solar projects haven't been without their issues.

Yes, but: Major projects are still coming online.

  • New York, for instance, recently flipped the switch on its first offshore wind farm, some 35 miles off Long Island's Montauk Point.

What's next: Energy from wind and solar installations is expected to outpace coal-fired electricity this year, as Axios Generate's Ben Geman has reported.


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