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

  • The US installed a record 26 gigawatts of new clean energy in 2020, according to a new report.
  • In 2020, the number of producing US coal mines fell to the lowest number since 2008.
  • 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.

2020: a record year for US clean energy

The US has a long way to go in its path to net zero, but it appears to be going in the right direction.

In 2010, just 28% of new power installations in the US were wind, solar, and battery storage. In 2020, 78% of new power installations were wind, solar, and battery storage.

Clean energy, including wind, utility solar, and battery storage, topped 170 gigawatts (GW) in the US in 2020, according to the American Clean Power Association’s first Clean Power Annual report. That’s after the year saw a record 26 GW of clean energy projects come online in 2020.

The American Clean Power Association is a trade group formed last year that’s made up of more than 30 member companies from wind, solar, utilities, and other new energy industries. It writes:

The rapid pace of new clean power installations included 16,836 MW of land-based wind, representing 50% of new additions; 8,894 MW of utility-scale solar projects, capturing 26% of the market; and 760 MW of battery storage capacity.

Texas added the most clean power capacity in 2020 with 6,320 MW, followed by California with 2,193 MW, Florida with 1,267 MW, Iowa with 1,218 MW, and Oklahoma with 1,182 MW.

Read more: Clean energy was second-most prevalent US electricity source in 2020

US coal mines decline… for now

Contrast the above with coal: By the end of 2020, the number of producing coal mines in the US fell to 551 mines, the lowest number since US coal production peaked in 2008, reports the US Energy Information Administration. In 2020, 40 coal mines were opened or reactivated, and 151 mines were idled or closed. 

This overall decrease resulted in an 18% annual decline in the total number of producing coal mines from 2019, and a 62% decline since 2008.

Shutting down less-efficient mines while adding relatively few new mines and reactivating few idled mines resulted in the drop last year.

The declining number of new mines in the US reflects reduced investment in the coal industry, less demand for coal internationally, and less demand for coal in the US electric power sector.

However, coal is going to rise before it permanently drops: The EIA forecasts that US coal production will increase by 15% in 2021 from 2020 levels. Increased production could result in some idled US coal mines reopening in 2021.

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About the Author

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.