California Hits New Record in Solar Power Production (Again!)

August 2, 2016

As a national leader on renewable energy, California has created a new history in the use of solar power, thanks to the triple-digit heat wave in the last few weeks – according to the calculation by San Francisco Chronicle, the Golden State’s solar power plants generated enough electricity for more than 6 million homes on July 12th, 2016.

The figures from California’s Independent Solar Operators Corporation (ISO), which operates the majority of the state’s power grid, indicates that several large solar plants located throughout the state produced 8,030 megawatts of electricity at 1:06 p.m. on July 12, which is more than doubling the amount of solar energy produced in 2014 and nearly 2,000 megawatts higher than the solar peak from last year. Moreover, the number only includes the electricity produced at plants – the rooftop solar panels, which are installed by over 537,000 houses and business in California, can add an additional 4,211 megawatts of electricity to the record number.

“This solar production record demonstrates that California is making significant strides forward in connecting low carbon resources to the grid in meeting the state’s goal of reaching 33 percent renewables by 2020,” says Steve Berberich, the President and CEO of Independent Solar Operator, in a news release, “California continues to lead the nation in adding clean resources to the system and writing a playbook for operating a low carbon grid.”

Where is California Headed with Solar Power?

Solar power has been growing rapidly in this sun-spoiled state in recent years. According to statistics from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), California installed 3,266 MW of solar electric capacity in 2015, which represents about $7.268 billion of investment in the state. Currently, the 13,241 megawatts of solar capacity in the Golden State is capable of powering an estimated 3.32 million homes, ranking it first nationally. With 52 percent and 73 percent of the nation’s total utility-scale solar PV and solar thermal respectively, California is the undeniable front-runner on solar energy, which has more capacity than the rest of the country combined.

Is this the only natural resource available in California?

Besides solar, California is always active in introducing other renewables into its power system. At the time of record, solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable source provided nearly 29 percent of the state’s electricity needs. For short periods in May 14 and 15 this year, the renewables were serving an impressive 54 percent and 56 percent of total electricity demand, respectively.

However, while solar power can offer considerable advantages, it also has its own drawbacks. Because the electricity is generated from sunlight, solar power tends to peak at noon, where the sun’s radiation is at its strongest, and then drops as the goes down. The problem is that the time from late afternoon (around 6pm) to night is exactly the period when electricity demands peak, so grid operators need natural gas power plants at the ready to take the slack and to fill the gap left by solar power. In addition, KQED Science reported that in spring and fall, when Californians aren’t using so much power, the state’s energy sources (such as solar, wind, nuclear, gas and others) can produce more power than needed, which forces some solar farms to shut down. Now, the state officials are proposing California joins up with neighboring states to share excess energy and avoid switching off solar farms.

Regardless, as Vice President for State Policy at the Solar Energy Industries Association Sean Gallagher notes, the record is a great milestone for California and the solar industry. Hopefully, the other states will take further steps in supporting the development of renewable energy and catch up soon.

Now watch this AWESOME video about How We Turn Solar Energy Into Electricity:


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