California Hits New Solar Power Record

Illustration: Randi Klett; Images: iStockphoto

California set a new record for solar power generation earlier this month and nearly doubled its solar production in less than a year.

The California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) announced that the state hit a record of 3,926 megawatts on March 7. The next day, it broke that record and surpassed 4 gigawatts with 4,093 MW of solar power generation. The current record is nearly double the peak production of June 2013.

“This shows that California is making remarkable progress in not only getting new resources approved and connected to the grid, but making meaningful contributions in keeping the lights on as well,” Steve Berberich, president and CEO of Cal ISO, said in a statement [PDF].

California’s total installed solar capacity is just over 5.2 GW. The state also has nearly 5.9 GW of wind resources. All renewable power, including geothermal, make up about 15 GW of Cal ISO’s generation mix. The state’s demand in early March was around 28 GW. The state has a goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020.

Solar is growing at a rapid pace, and not just in California. In 2013, it was the second-largest source of new generating capacity after natural gas. The price of solar also continued to fall, according to research from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. In the fourth quarter of 2013 alone, the United States installed more than 2 GW—nearly half of the year’s total.

The large increase in California is due to large, utility-scale solar plants coming online, and does not include rooftop solar. According to SolarServer, most of the record solar production was from utility-scale photovoltaic with the rest coming from concentrated solar power (CSP). Ivanpah, the world’s largest operating CSP plant, synced to California’s grid last fall.

Outside of California, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Georgia more than doubled their total solar capacity from 2012 to 2013. Overall, the U.S. solar market grew 41 percent in 2013, with California installing more than half of that capacity.

Illustration: Randi Klett; Images: iStockphoto

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