California has just set a record for solar power generation, shining new light on the role renewables can play in the state’s clean energy future.
Late last Friday, grid operator California ISO (Cal-ISO) announced the state set an all-time solar record just before 1:00 pm when it registered 2,071 megawatts (MW) worth of solar electricity system-wide.
This record equaled 5% of Friday’s peak demand of 36,000 MW, was enough to power 1.5 million average California households, and is just under the 2,250MW of nuclear power removed from the state grid when the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station was retired. Even more remarkable, Friday’s output doubled the record set in September 2012 when solar peaked at 1,000 MW total generation.
Solar Growing Fast Across California
Cal-ISO’s solar record shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nationally, California ranked first for solar energy in the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 2012 US Solar Market Insight Report with 1,032 MW installed in 2012, enough to power 626,000 homes. In fact, according to SEIA, if California were its own country, it would rank 7th in installed global photovoltaic capacity.
Solar’s rapid growth has been powered by stable state policy, including the California Solar Initiative (CSI), and funding for low-carbon energy sources generated by the state’s growing cap-and-trade system. CSI will install 1,940 MW of new solar capacity by the end of 2016, and $256 million has been invested in clean energy by carbon allowance auctions.
An Even Sunnier Forecast Ahead
Even though solar has helped make California the “epicenter of the US clean tech market,” the state is just scratching the surface of its solar power potential. 97% of all new electricity generation capacity scheduled to come online in California during the second half of 2013 will be solar power, and “shared renewables” legislation could allow the 75% of state’s utility customers who can’t install their own systems to subscribe to power from new solar projects across the state.
So stay tuned, because an upward trend is clear and the sun is just starting to rise on California’s solar future. “We are excited by this trend and expect to hit more record peaks on a regular basis,” said Steve Berberich, Cal-ISO President and CEO.