California Sets Yet Another Record for Solar Power Generation — Good News for the Hot, Dry Summer Ahead

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The California Independent System Operator reports another record for solar generation in the state, with a midday hourly peak on June 1 of 4767 MW — not even including residential or commercial solar. That will help provide enough electricity to California customers despite an early start to the summer.

 

It’s a hot, dry year in California. Not only is the state experiencing the worst drought in decades, but summer began early this year, with heat waves as early as May.

What does that mean for the state’s power supply?

Utility San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has warned that with the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) permanently offline and the potential for summer heat waves and wildfires (which can damage transmission lines), Southern California may face a tight summer for electricity resources. That’s no less true for the rest of the state.

But there’s good news for California: solar power is helping fill the gap.

California has been setting records for solar generation so fast it’s hard to keep up. On June 1, 2014, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) logged another record: a midday hourly peak of 4767 MW of utility-generated solar electricity going into the California grid. For the full day, solar production exceeded 47,000 MWh — that’s nearly 8% of all the electricity consumed in the CAISO region.

The average peak hourly generation for May 2014 was 4086 MW, 150% higher than last May. This May, during the average peak solar output hour of 11:00 a.m. – noon, solar provided 14% of all the electricity for California.

And that’s just utility-scale solar. The number would be even higher when you add the many residential and commercial solar installations in the state.

So while SDG&E is asking electricity customers to be mindful of how much power they use, the utility still expects electricity supplies to be enough for regional energy needs. And that’s in part thanks to solar and other renewables coming into the grid.

CAISO’s 2014 Summer Assessment predicts an adequate supply of electricity for meeting summer peak conditions across the state. That’s even though the drought has lowered the hydroelectric supply to well below average.

The CAISO grid has an estimated 54,171 MW of power plant capacity available this summer, including new generation of 3,644 MW and an additional 117 MW expected to come online by July 4.

A large amount of the new power supply, about 61%, comes from solar power, with about 7% coming from other renewables.