Clean Power

Published on February 8th, 2016 | by U.S. Energy Information Administration


California Has Almost Half Of US Solar Electric Generating Capacity

February 8th, 2016 by  

Originally published on EIA.

The United States has slightly more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, which includes utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal installations, as well as distributed generation solar PV systems, also known as rooftop solar.


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

In 2014, California became the first state to generate at least 5% of its electricity from utility-scale solar plants (i.e., generators with at least one MW of capacity). Utility-scale solar makes up more than two-thirds of California’s solar capacity, with utility-scale solar PV making up 55% and solar thermal systems such as concentrating solar making up another 13%. Distributed generation solar PV systems, often installed on rooftops of residential and commercial buildings, account for the remaining 32%.

Utility-scale systems in California make up a higher share (68%) than the national average of 60%. The mix of utility-scale versus distributed generation solar PV varies by state, often reflecting differences in state and local policies. For instance, 94% of North Carolina’s 1,070 MW of installed solar capacity is utility-scale systems. In states like New York and Hawaii, distributed generation solar PV systems are more prevalent than utility-scale systems, making up 87% and 89%, respectively, of the total solar capacity in those states.


For both utility-scale solar PV and solar thermal, California has more capacity than the rest of the country combined, with 52% and 73% of the nation’s total, respectively. All but 18 states have some utility-scale solar PV capacity, but only three states (California, Arizona, and Nevada) have utility-scale solar thermal resources, as these systems often require large, contiguous tracts of land in arid environments.

All but three states (Alaska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) have at least one megawatt of distributed generation solar PV capacity. EIA recently added estimates of distributed solar PV capacity and generation to tables in the Electric Power Monthly.

Overall, utility-scale solar systems make up about 1.1% of the total U.S. electric generating capacity, while distributed generation PV systems provide another 0.8%. Solar’s share of electricity generation is slightly less (0.4% and 0.2%, for utility-scale and distributed), reflecting the intermittent nature of solar resources.

Reprinted with permission.

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-- the EIA collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment.

  • jdeely

    Yesterday from CAISO. Not bad for Feb 7th.

    • newnodm

      I wonder what percentage of demand of the “ducks head” is fossil fuel. I also wonder what the wholesale price is at the peak…

  • JamesWimberley

    It’s a shame that Jerry Brown’s high-tax, green moonbeam policies have caused California’s economy to implode, with food riots and a mass exodus of the unemployed to Kansas and Wisconsin.

    • Martin

      Good one! lol :))

    • Omega Centauri

      And I thought moonbeams were supposed to be blue.

  • mikgigs

    half of you, fourth of us(Europe)

  • harisA

    With new net metering policy, hopefully California will keep its place.

  • Martin

    Too bad about Nevada’s policy changes on solar, is their solar potential not as good or better than California’s?
    And for hot places like Nevada solar is perfect for peak demand like air condition in the summer, oh right that’s there the provider and their investors make tee most money, my mistake! 😉

    • Mike Dill

      Yes, Southern Nevada has some of the best solar resources in the world. Solar does load-follow AC, until the evening when it continues to be hot and the Time-Of-Use rates stay high for an hour after the sun sets in the summer.
      It will be interesting to see how this compares to storage this year. A two hour battery can beat that shoulder peak. I will probably go that way this year or next to beat the Time-Of-Use charges.

  • Harry Johnson

    It’s a start.

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