US solar electrical output higher by 16.3% in 2023

According to the latest data just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), solar’s share of the nation’s electrical generation set a new monthly record in May as well as for the first five months of the year. 

The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report (with data through May 31, 2023) reveals that in the first five months of this year, electrical generation by solar (including small-scale distributed systems) grew by 11.8%, compared to the same period in 2022. This was driven in large part by growth in “estimated” small-scale (e.g., rooftop) solar PV whose output increased by 25.6% and accounted for nearly a third (31.9%) of total solar production. For the five-month period, solar was 5.5% of total U.S. electrical generation. 

In just the month of May, solar electrical output was 16.3% higher than a year earlier, propelled by a 27.6% increase in small-scale solar – substantially faster than any other energy source. As a result, solar hit an all-time monthly high of 7.3% of the nation’s total electrical generation, approaching that of hydropower (8.3%). This growth trend had been building since the beginning of 2023when solar was 3.5% of total generation in January, followed by 4.4% in February, 5.5% in March, and 7.1% in April. 

For May alone, solar combined with wind accounted for 16.9% of the nation’s electrical generation. For the first five months of 2023, solar and wind together were 17.7% of total U.S. electrical generation – up from 17.0% for the same period a year earlier. For the five-month period, solar plus wind easily surpassed coal’s share (14.6%) as electrical generation by the latter plummeted by 28.7%.

The full complement of renewable energy sources (i.e., including biomass, geothermal, and hydropower) accounted for over a quarter (26.0%) of the nation’s electrical generation – up from 25.6% a year earlier notwithstanding declines in wood + biomass (down 7.6% ), hydropower (down 7.1%), and geothermal (down 1.8%). 

Further, electrical generation by the mix of renewables exceeded that provided by nuclear power – whose output fell by 0.6% – by more than a third (36.6%).