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Missouri solar power grew significantly last year, but Illinois produces much more

The Independence Power and Light solar farm in Independence, Missouri.
Carlos Moreno
The Independence Power and Light solar farm in Independence. While solar power increased, wind energy fell in 2023 in Missouri and Illinois, according to a new report from Climate Central, a nonprofit that analyzes and reports on climate science.

Missouri and Illinois created more solar energy last year compared to the year before, according to a new report from Climate Central, but a decrease in wind generation led to an overall drop in power from those sources.

The U.S. has a goal of reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions by 50% of 2005 levels in 2030 to slow climate change. Electricity production is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“A big part of getting to net zero is the installation of renewables and replacement of coal and other plants that generate extensive emissions,” said Jen Brady, a senior data analyst at Climate Central, a nonprofit that researches climate issues. “And so we are seeing a nice movement along that curve, but we have to have continued growth that we've seen now.”


Solar energy grew faster in Missouri than Illinois in 2023. Missouri generated almost 32% more power from the sun in 2023 compared to 2022, while Illinois’s solar generation grew by about 24%. That growth is important, Brady said.

“I don't think it's ever too late to get into the game and really start amping up your production and your capacity in your state,” Brady said. “Missouri grew faster than Illinois last year, so their pace is picking up in that sense.”

The vast majority of that solar growth in Missouri has been driven by small-scale solar projects, including community and rooftop solar, Brady said.

“We were surprised to see how large a contribution the small-scale solar was making to the total mix,” Brady said. “I don't think we realized that it was quite as high as it is.”

That could change in the coming years locally, as Ameren Missouri has multiple utility-scale solar projects planned. In March, Missouri’s Public Service Commission approved Ameren’s plans to buy or build three solar farms that will have the capacity to generate about 400 megawatts of power in Missouri. These projects will begin serving customers in 2025 and 2026, according to Ameren.

Illinois still produces significantly more wind and solar energy than Missouri does, the Climate Central report said. In 2023, Illinois generated more than 25,500 gigawatt-hours of solar and wind energy, while Missouri produced about 7,700 gigawatt-hours.

Wind energy generation fell in the U.S. in 2023, breaking at least a decade-long streak of growth, according to the report. That was partially due to slower-than-normal wind speeds likely due to warm weather patterns. Illinois and Missouri saw similar declines in wind generation.

Despite the decrease in generation, the U.S. brought more wind projects online, including an increase in Illinois.

“Overall, there's really a positive takeaway from these numbers we're seeing in wind and solar, and we're seeing growth,” Brady said. “We expect different states to be at different paces, but just to see people continuing to increase is a great sign.”

Illinois is one of the top five producers of wind energy in the country. The state added about 800 megawatts of utility-scale wind capacity in 2023, which represents enough energy to power more than 2 million homes.

Kate Grumke covers the environment, climate and agriculture for St. Louis Public Radio and Harvest Public Media.