During a recent heatwave, California reached a solar energy milestone. Its solar power plants hit over 1,000 MW (1 GW) of electricity generation, almost as much as their combined 1,160 MW capacity, which is equal to the power production of two large 500-MW gas-fired power stations. The power plants reached this milestone on several occasions during the heatwave.
Despite their large size, solar panels have the potential to utilize the least land of all types of power plants, due to the fact that they can be integrated into almost anything, whether it is on the ground or installed on rooftops which are usually hardly utilized.
Electricity demand tends to be higher on sunny days, and this is especially due to the power requirements of air conditioners, standing fans, and evaporative coolers. Generally speaking, the sunnier the weather is, the hotter it becomes (not including those times of day in certain places when it simply becomes “hot” due to high humidity).
This is clearly a great match for solar. Heat rises, electricity demand rises, and solar electricity is rising at the same time.
This is one reason solar panels are complemented so nicely by air conditioners (or vice versa). Typical coal-fired power plants are not very adjustable because they take a long time to start up and shut down, so it is difficult for them to increase power production in time to meet increased air conditioner power consumption in such heatwaves.
Bob Foster, chairman of the ISO board, said that ISO’s board of governors has approved enough new transmission investment to enable California utility companies to reach a state goal of a 33 percent renewable power mix by 2020. I think we’ll be seeing the state surpass 1,000 MW of solar more and more often.