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EGEB: US solar installations expected to jump 43% in 2020

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • The US solar industry surged in 2020 despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • ExxonMobil’s investors pressure the oil giant to cut emissions, and it underwhelmingly responded.
  • Plans have been submitted for North Carolina’s first offshore wind farm.
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

US solar surge

US solar installations are expected to grow 43% this year, just short of a pre-pandemic forecast of 47%. The solar industry recovered more quickly than expected from the slowdown caused by COVID-19.

“The sector is now expected to install more than 19 gigwatts of solar this year, enough to power more than 3.6 million homes, according to the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and energy research firm Wood Mackenzie. Last year it installed 13.3 GW of capacity,” Reuters reports.

The rebound is a result of utilities looking to adopt more solar in order to reduce emissions and the rapidly declining cost of solar technology.

New US utility projects announced during the third quarter resulted in the SEIA revising its installation forecast for 2021 to 2025 upward by 10 GW to 107 GW. Residential installations are expected to be up 7% this year. 

Just 3% of US electricity is now generated by solar. SEIA hopes that will rise to 20% over the next 10 years.

Exxon’s underwhelming emissions cuts

After pressure from investors to act in order to fight climate change, ExxonMobil agreed to cut emissions for every barrel of oil it produces by 15-20% per barrel by 2025, compared with 2016 levels.

The Financial Times points out:

Unlike many European producers, Exxon’s new targets apply purely to its scope 1 and 2 emissions — those produced by its own operations and its power providers. They do not apply to its scope 3 emissions — those produced by burning its oil.

However, Exxon did say it would start to publish scope 3 emissions figures annually.

The company also vowed a 40-50% cut to the intensity of its methane emissions, a steep drop in the practice of flaring natural gas by 2025, and an end to “routine flaring” by 2030.

Andrew Logan, an oil expert with the sustainable investment advocacy group Ceres, told Axios:

There are some things to like in here, particularly around the flaring and methane commitments, but overall this is underwhelming and fails to address ExxonMobil’s main source of risk — its product emissions.

This set of commitments would have been leading edge five years ago, but at a time when even US peers like Occidental and ConocoPhillips have set net zero ambitions for their operational emissions (and are also committing to address scope 3) this feels grossly inadequate.

Unlike a number of its European counterparts, Exxon has not made a pledge to become net zero by 2050.

North Carolina offshore wind

Avangrid Renewables has filed a construction and operations plan to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the first phase of its wholly-owned Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind project, which will be situated around 27 miles from the Outer Banks.

Bill White, Avangrid Renewables’ head of US offshore wind, said:

We’re proud to be the first to submit a federal permit for a commercial scale offshore wind project in Virginia and the Carolinas.

Dominion Energy completed construction of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project earlier this year. It precedes the proposed much larger 2.64 GW Dominion Energy Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project.

The first phase of the total 200-square-mile project, which is expected to begin construction in 2024, will be able to generate approximately 800 megawatts of electricity. When complete by the expected date of 2030, Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind is expected to have a total generation capacity of up to 2.5 GW or enough to power 700,000 homes.

Kitty Hawk is expected to create nearly 800 jobs in Virginia and North Carolina and drive $2 billion in economic activity.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.