Climate Matters•February 22, 2023
WeatherPower: 2022 in Review
Climate Central’s new report WeatherPower Year in Review: 2022 analyzed data on solar and wind electricity across the continental U.S. from 2022 and compared the findings to data from 2021.
The U.S. generated 683,130 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from solar (27%) and wind (73%) combined in 2022—enough to power the equivalent of 64 million average American households.
California produced the most solar energy and Texas produced the most wind energy in 2022. But many other states saw major growth in generation from solar and wind.
The nation’s installed renewable energy generating capacity grew, too. Solar and wind increased across the country to more than 238 gigawatts (GW) in 2022—up nearly 13 GW or 6% since 2021.
These data, combined with federal growth projections, suggest that America’s ability to produce electricity from sunlight and wind is capable of growing enough to support the nation’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The energy sector (including electricity, heat, and transportation) is the largest source of heat-trapping emissions globally and in the U.S.
Producing carbon-free energy is therefore key to meeting global and U.S. goals to reduce net carbon pollution to zero by 2050.
This requires a rapid shift toward renewable energy sources—including solar panels and wind turbines—that provide electricity without producing carbon pollution that warms the planet and harms our health.
To study America’s growing renewable electricity generation and capacity (the maximum potential generation of electricity from installed wind and solar utilities), Climate Central analyzed WeatherPower™ data from the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., from 2022, and compared the findings to data from 2021.
The WeatherPower Year in Review: 2022 report shows:
which states were the biggest producers of solar and wind electricity;
where solar and wind capacity increased in 2022 (and by how much);
what this all means for our progress toward renewable energy goals.
What is WeatherPower?
WeatherPower™ produces forecasts of daily solar and wind generation across the U.S. The tool can be used to generate figures relevant to a state, media market, county, or congressional district in the contiguous U.S.
WeatherPower combines information about local installed solar and wind capacity with observed and forecasted weather data (specifically, local wind speeds and solar irradiance).
Check today’s WeatherPower forecast for your state, county, or congressional district, and learn more about the tool.
Solar and wind generation in 2022 could power millions of homes
The U.S. generated 683,130 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from the sun and wind in 2022—up 16% from 2021. Of the 2022 total, solar was 183,284 GWh (or 27%) and wind was 499,846 GWh (73%).
The electricity generated from solar and wind in 2022 was enough to power the equivalent of 64 million average American households. For reference, there are 124 million American households according to the U.S. Census.
At the average retail price of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2022 (as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration), this total electricity generated from solar and wind last year equates to $82 billion.
The states that contributed the most to national solar and wind electricity generation in 2022 were:
California for solar, with 58,664 GWh, or 32% of the national total for solar; and
Texas for wind, with 129,578 GWh, or 26% of the national total for wind.
Generation grew from 2021 to 2022
Electricity generation from solar and wind in the U.S. collectively grew 16% from 2021. Solar accounted for 26% of this growth, while wind accounted for 74%.
Texas saw the largest jump in both solar and wind generation from 2021 to 2022—an increase of 6,253 GWh in solar and an increase of 19,082 GWh in wind.
Many states saw growth in solar and wind generation, even if those figures were small contributions to overall national output. For example, Wisconsin generated 22% more wind power in 2022 than it did during 2021.
Seasonal cycles in solar and wind generation
Solar and wind generation depend on the weather and number of daily sunlight hours. There tend to be seasonal differences for solar and wind generation: solar peaks in summer; wind peaks in spring and fall.
April was the highest-generating month nationally, with 73,540 GWh from solar and wind combined.
The U.S. generated the most solar in July (20,919 GWh) and the most wind in April (55,831 GWh).
Solar and wind capacity grew in 2022
The U.S. had an estimated capacity of 238 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind installations (combined) by the end of 2022—an increase of nearly 13 GW or 6% from 2021.
The states with the most solar capacity in 2022 were California (28 GW) and Texas (13 GW).
Texas had the largest capacity for wind power in 2022 (37 GW), followed by Iowa (12 GW) and Oklahoma (12 GW).
Hotspots of capacity growth
Among all states, Texas led with the largest capacity additions from 2021 to 2022 of both solar (2 GW) and wind (3 GW)—accounting for around 37% of the total national growth of solar and wind capacity.
But many other states saw significant growth in solar and wind capacity, even if those contributions to the national capacity growth were smaller. For example, Michigan had a 23% increase in solar capacity from 2021 to 2022.
Progress toward a carbon-free energy future
Several studies have modeled how quickly renewable energy capacity in the U.S. must grow to reach national climate goals. For example, the Net-Zero America project (NZAP) sets benchmarks between 2025 and 2050 for progress toward the national net-zero goal.
Solar and wind capacity additions are expected to grow. For example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in January 2023 projected that as much as 202 GW of solar and 68 GW of wind installations (utility-scale) might be added through November 2025.
Moreover, renewable energy is poised to continue rapid growth in the longer term as a result of recent federal legislation. The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Biden in August 2022, provides numerous incentives for renewable energy projects and efficiency improvements to accelerate the transition to carbon-free energy in the U.S.
A recent EIA report projects that more than half of new U.S. electric-generating capacity in 2023 will be from solar and 11% will come from wind power.
LOCAL STORY ANGLES
How much solar or wind is generated near me?
You can check the WeatherPower tool for a multi-day forecast of solar and wind generation for your state, country, or congressional district.
Bringing your audience up to speed on the basics of solar and wind power?
Where does your state’s energy come from?
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s U.S. Energy Atlas provides searchable data and interactive maps for all aspects of the nation's energy system. Additional state-level data from the EIA can be found here.
Eric Larson, PhD
Senior Scientist (Energy Systems) at Climate Central
Senior Research Faculty, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, Princeton University
Relevant expertise: clean energy technologies, clean energy systems
Submit a request to SciLine from the American Association for the Advancement of Science or to the Climate Data Concierge from Columbia University. These free services rapidly connect journalists to relevant scientific experts.
Browse maps of climate experts and services at regional NOAA, USDA, and Department of the Interior offices.
To see how the data for this report was generated, see the WeatherPower methodology version 3.4. For WeatherPower daily use after February 23, 2023, see the updated methodology available on the WeatherPower tool. See the methodology section in the report for additional details on included figures.