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California Hits New Solar Power Record

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

2 min read
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

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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