Clean Power

Published on March 13th, 2014 | by Silvio Marcacci


California’s Grid Sets Two New Solar Energy Records in Two Days

March 13th, 2014 by  

America’s solar energy leader is at it once again – California set two new records for solar power supply across the state grid over the span of two days last week.

Solar energy provided a record 3.9 gigawatts (GW) of electricity on March 7th, then bested that mark with 4.1GW on March 8th, according to the California ISO – enough to power about 3 million homes or 18% of overall power demand.

These numbers mean California has more than doubled the amount of solar energy flowing onto the grid in less than a year, when it set a then-record 2GW in June 2013.

California’s Grid Handles The Solar Energy Surge

California’s new solar records don’t come as much of a surprise, considering the wide margin by which it leads all states in installed solar capacity. As of the end of 2013, the Golden State was shining strong with nearly 5.7GW installed solar energy, more than three times the capacity of Arizona’s 1.8GW, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The other unsurprising takeaway from California’s solar surge is the grid’s ability to integrate an ever-larger amount of renewable energy without reliability concerns, a reality most recently outlined last week when America’s largest grid operator forecast it could integrate up to 30% renewable energy without reliability concerns.

A high-renewable grid future was echoed when the International Energy Agency said high renewable energy penetration is possible in any country – even as it came under criticism for consistently underestimating the power of solar energy.

“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,” said Steve Berberich, California ISO President and Chief Executive Officer.

Wind Energy Matches Solar On Way To Renewable Goals

Beyond solar energy, California is also adding massive amounts of wind energy en route to its ambitious 33% renewables by 2020 goal. California ISO’s solar record announcement also noted the state now has nearly 5.9GW of wind resources for a combined total of 11.1GW interconnected renewable energy across the grid.

In addition to adding new renewables, California is also doing well at integrating them – Saturday’s record was set in part by the fact that 78% of all installed capacity was contributing electrons to the grid. “The milestones illustrate that we are well into a new era when clean, renewable energy is shouldering its share of our electricity needs – and that is exciting,” said Berberich.

The best may be yet to come in California, though. The state added 2.7GW new solar capacity just last year, as much as had ever been cumulatively added in state history and enough to power 607,000 homes.

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.


    Interesting discussion ! I was fascinated by the specifics ! Does
    someone know if my business can obtain a sample IRS 433-A document to
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  • Rockne O’Bannon

    Just a thought….
    Not all of this achievement (double the generation in just two years!!) is due to new capacity. It is quite possible that solar conditions statewide were just about nearly ideal on those days. It is possible that conditions statewide hit a sweetspot and produced extremely good results, but temporary ones.
    Anyone who has worked with solar knows that most of the time you are not going to be generating at full capacity. And then even if it is sunny in one place, it will be cloudy in another. Or hazy. Or smoggy.
    Summer will bring longer day lengths, but more winds bringing haze in from the ocean.

    So while we pat ourselves on the back, it might be good to realize that 50% better weather conditions is the same as 50% higher capacity in the short run. In the long run, boosting capacity will bring “brighter tomorrows,” but two days is not a long run.

    I will also observe that where I live, which is not California, solar generation was about 20% worse overall in 2013 than it was in 2012, and 2012 was about 10% better than 2011. 2014 is shaping up to be really good.

  • Michael B

    4.1GW = enough to power 3 million homes (paragraph 2)
    2.1GW = enough to power 607,000 homes (last paragraph)

    The first set of homes requires ~ 1.37kW each on average,
    and the second set requires ~ 3.46kW each on average,

    So exactly how much power does an average home in CA require? I’ve seen various estimates used, and now here in the same article. Or am I missing something?

    • Rockne O’Bannon

      I totally agree with you, and it should be consistent within the article at least, but seasonal demands will vary quite a bit. Needs for heating and cooling will also vary from south to north. I am sure any number someone could choose is nit-pickable.

  • Hans

    The arguments against the direct sales of Tesla cars come done to: “a free market for cars doesn’t give the best results for costumers, that is why the government should intervene and make sales via franchise dealers obligatory “. This is funny because it comes from the right-way -free-markets-solve-all-problems type of people. This illustrates that these people not really believe the free market ideology that they preach. They just use it oppurtunistically to defend the vested interests that pay into their campaign fund.

    • Hans

      Oops too many tabs open, commented on the wrong article. Bob can you delete this comment?

  • jdeely

    A few points to consider:
    – CAISO does not include all of California. For instance, LADWP – LAs municipal utility is not part of CAISO. That said it is about 80% of total statewide usage and generation and is a good proxy for the statewide trend.
    – the total CAISO Solar production for 3/8 was 32,417MWh which was also a record. In fact, it was the first time generation from solar has exceeded 30K for a day. This was about 6% of the total generation for that day. Not bad for a day with early March hours of sunlight.
    – All renewables Solar, wind,geo, small hydro and biomass composed about 15% of total production for the day. We have a ways to go before we hit 30% generation from renewables on a regular basis.
    – Final point – none of the records include rooftop solar which is not measured because it is “behind the meter”. Estimates are that we have about 2,000MW of this so actual peak may have been over 6,000MW.

  • Will E

    Wouldnt it be a good idea to make it a competition, to make people aware of what is going on.
    all people like competition, a yearly national world championship of solar
    and world champion of wind power competition.
    with big money prices, like the millions in soccer and football world champion competition
    on worldwide broadcast and WINNERS and LOSERS.
    No one wants to be a loser, except in losing weight.
    Zacharia, please start a Nation wide WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP of Solar and Wind competition. Will be good PR for renewables.

    or better still , make it Olympic .

  • Kyle Field

    Rock on sunshine state, rock on 🙂 (yeah, I’m biased, I live there and am contributing to this record/overall renewables generation 🙂 )

    • Michael B

      You live in Florida? LOL

      • Kyle Field

        Hey, we get more sun 🙂 but yeah…oops 🙂

  • andereandre

    Germany peaked at (an estimated) 21.9 GW today 9 (not a record, not even for this month).
    I follow that on .

    They reached California’s 4.1 GW already at 8 in the morning and went only below it after 5 in the afternoon.

    • california

      it’s not a competition. we all win.

    • William Nemirow

      Germany’s has more than twice the population.

    • Good perspective.

  • John Moran

    Awesome, I imagine new records will continue to be set for some time to come.

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