EIA forecasts solar top form of new generation for 2016

(Ken James/Bloomberg)
(Ken James/Bloomberg)

A new government forecast predicts that for the first time ever there will be more solar farm capacity added to the power grid this year than any other form of generation.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Tuesday approximately 9.5 gigawatts worth of solar farms are expected go online this year, more than three times last year’s rate.

Almost half of the new capacity will be added in California. But Texas is among the leading states with .7 gigawatts of solar slated for construction, as developers look to the abundant sunshine and wide-open lands of West Texas.

A gigawatt’s worth of solar panels will power roughly 164,000 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

EIA is also predicting 8 gigawatts of new natural gas plants and 6.8 gigawatts of new wind farms.

The forecast only applies to large-scale solar farms, not the rooftop systems that are becoming commonplace across much of the western United States. In 2015, those systems accounted for 8.4 gigawatts of new capacity, according to EIA.