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Published on November 11th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


California Now Has 1 Gigawatt of Solar Power Installed

November 11th, 2011 by  

solar power california

Joining the ranks of 5 countries other than the U.S. that have hit the 1 gigawatt solar milestone (Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and the Czech Republic), California has now installed its 1st gigawatt (or 1,000th megawatt) of rooftop solar installed.

To put that into perspective, 1GW of solar can power up to 750,000 homes and is equal to about 2 coal-fired power plants.

“California can become the Saudi Arabia of the sun if it continues to get behind big, successful solar programs,” said Michelle Kinman of Environment California and co-author of “Building a Brighter Future: California’s Progress Toward a Million Solar Roofs.”

The California Solar Initiative was reported as a key driver of growth, helping to bring 600 megawatts online. And falling solar prices combined with solar leases for as little as $0 down have been a tremendous growth driver as well.

205 MW of the 1,000 MW installed were installed in 2011, despite the sagging economy.

Source: San Jose Mercury News
Image: California Solar Panels via Walmart Stores

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Sarah1122789

    that’s really good news.. keep up

  • Solar Panel Installation

    The technology is really new but it has had a good deal of development inside the recent a long time that nowadays, That means that only a fraction of solar energy striking the panel is converted into electricity.
    Nice one, thanks..:)

  • California is only one-quarter of the way through its goal of one million solar roofs by 2016, and they started in 2007. Certainly, this is cause for celebration, but they are a bit behind the eight ball.

  • Thanks for taking the moment to consider this, I believe powerfully about it and love learning more on this topic.

  • While it’s a nice milestone, the question everyone should be asking is why it took us so long. Germany installs 1 GW of solar every *3-4 months* and we’re celebrating 1 GW over something like 5 years. And California has 70% better solar resource than Germany. And because of their economies of scale, low cost of capital, and installation experience, Germany’s installed cost per watt of solar is much less than California’s. They’re paying less and getting a lot more.

    So, after celebrating the success of the CSI program, we should be figuring out what new policies, programs and lessons we can learn from Germany.

    • Anonymous

      The citizens of Germany are more united in their desire for a clean, safe energy future. They are willing to invest a bit of money now in order to get a fossil fuel-free and nuclear-free future. And a cheaper energy future.

      Here, in the US, we are having to deal with a large amount of ignorance sponsored by the fossil fuel industry and championed by a major political party.

      • Anonymous

        That’s the bottom line.

      • R. Rogers

        Thanks Bob. Now I don’t have to say it. Deep pockets have kept the U.S. a bunch of fossil fools and in the dark ages.

  • Anonymous

    Why do we consider this successful Andrew?

    Because it’s an easily recognizable point when an extra digit gets added. Just like when you watch your car go from 999,999 to 1,000,000 miles.

    Now, please tell us who is talking about the US getting 100% of our electricity from solar?

    As far as I can tell, only the ‘friends of fossil fuel’ who are attempting to hold back the transition away from oil and coal.

    And who is getting their bloomers all in a bunch about the modest amount of subsidies that renewable energy has received and saying nothing about the billions and billions and billions in subsidies that fossil fuels have received over the last 100+ years?

    As far as I can tell, only the ‘friends of fossil fuel’ who are attempting to hold back the transition away from oil and coal.

    Finally, Andrew, are you aware that at one point in time coal produced less than 1% of our electricity? Coal was a good way to generate electricity at the time (since we were ignorant of the problems of fossil fuels) and it’s role grew. Now the role of coal is declining and being replaced by renewable energy.

  • Andrew W.

    The Capacity Factor for Solar is only 25%. This equates to 250,000 MWh of actual power, just during the day.

    California uses 300 GWh of actual electricity. Solar accounts for less than 1%.

    Despite spending billions in public subsidies, this new solar power didn’t keep up with increases in demand. It won’t solve our energy problem.

    If the US wanted to make Solar our primary source of electricity, it would cost $25 trillion. Of course, we’d still be in the dark – at night.

    Solar isn’t a solution. It’s an overpriced supplement.

    Why do you consider this successful?

    • Dcard88

      capacity factor of 25%? Dont know what you mean. The decription is entirely accurate – the panels generate 1GW per hour when the sun is shining. Same as a 2GW nuc plant or 2 1GW coal plants.

      • Anonymous

        I’m a big solar fan (I have PV on my house) but Andrew is close to target here.

        1GW of PV is not the same as 1 GW nuclear or fossil fuel plant. My 3.24 kW DC PV system is rated at 2.7 kW CEC AC watts and will generate about 5000 kWh / year, giving it an average output of 570 W over the course of a year or a capacity factor between 17-21% depending on what you are using as “nameplate” capacity.

        Unless grid storage and PV gets to be dirt cheap, PV will never provide 100% of our electricity, but that’s never been the goal anyway. There is no silver bullet – we need all the tools in our arsenal to de-carbonize the grid and solar is one of them.

        • Anonymous

          Andrew shows up here from time to time supporting fossil fuels.

          Of course the Sun doesn’t shine 24/365, no one suggests that it does. But people like Andrew like to harp on that in an attempt to downplay the rising role that solar has in our grid supply.

          It’s a common technique used by friends of fossil fuels. Point out the fact that the Sun does not shine all the time or that the wind does not blow all the time and then try to use that to insist that we must continue to use fossil fuels. It’s bogus, and I’m sure even Andrew realizes it’s bogus.

          PV is on route to becoming “dirt cheap”. Very rapidly. Does that mean that we will build our future grid on solar plus storage only? Of course not. What it means is that solar will be a major supplier in the mix that includes wind, geothermal, tidal, hydro, biogas/mass and possibly wave. A wide reaching mix of inputs makes for the most reliable grid and requires the least amount of storage and backup generation.

    • Jeffhre

      The Capacity Factor for gas is only 11.4%. This equates to 114,000 MWh of actual power, each day for each gigawatt installed. California uses 300 GWh of actual electricity. Nat gas accounts for less than 50%. Despite spending billions in public subsidies, this new natural gas power capacity didn’t keep up with increases in demand. It won’t solve our energy problem. If the US wanted to make natural gas our primary source of electricity, it would cost $11 trillion. Of course, we’d still be in the dark – at night.

      Natural gas isn’t a solution. It’s an overpriced supplement.
      Why do you consider this successful?

      Reality: natural gas and new wind have provided the vast majority of the nations new generating capacity for at least the past three years. Solar has decreased in price by 170% over the past 20 months and will continue to fall. Changing the target of criticism shows how out of context over the top blanket statements, unfortunately, will continue to be one of the largest sources of biased rhetoric.

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