The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the largest electricity grid in California, broke its own solar generation record on Tuesday of this week.
The 8,030 megawatts put out at 1:06pm were approximately double the 2014 high, and ~2,000 megawatts (MW) higher than last year’s record.
Naturally, as a lot more solar power capacity is added to the grid, all you need is a particularly sunny day (middle of summer is good for that) to break such a record. The record could be beat yet again in the coming weeks, and it would surely be clobbered in 2017, after another year of solar power additions rush the grid.
As indicated in the headline, the 8,030 MW put out at 1:06pm on Tuesday, July 12, was enough to power ~2 million California homes. Notably, however, solar homes weren’t part of the equation in this new solar record. The thing is, CAISO’s numbers are just for utility-scale solar installations, excluding rooftop solar power — which is a sizable portion of California’s overall solar power capacity.
Additionally, CAISO only accounts for ~80% of California’s electricity grid — just the Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric jurisdictions. Smaller municipal utilities like Sacramento Municipal Utility District aren’t included.
Getting back to the record, I imagine many of you are curious how 8,030 MW compared to overall electricity demand in the state. At the time of the new record, utility-scale solar and other renewables were together providing ~29% of the network’s electricity needs. While that is an encouraging number at this stage, it wasn’t even close to the percentage record set earlier this year. Such renewables (again, this excludes rooftop solar) accounted for 54% and 56% of CAISO’s electricity needs for periods of time on May 14 and May 15 (not for the entire days).
Hopefully it won’t be long until we’re seeing utility-scale renewables supplying 50% of electricity demand on a regular basis, and 75–80% at record times. Again, though: it would be nice if rooftop solar generation numbers were worked into these figures, which would get us to the more exciting numbers a lot faster.
For more California solar reading, I recommend this extensive resource page, which I recently put together: “California Solar Energy – Solar Incentives, Installers, Costs.”