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California set records for solar power and renewable energy at the end of April. The California ISO is learning how to do a better job of balancing demand with the available supply of renewables.

Clean Power

California Sets New Solar & Renewable Records At End Of April

California set records for solar power and renewable energy at the end of April. The California ISO is learning how to do a better job of balancing demand with the available supply of renewables.

The California Independent System Operator reported a new utility-scale solar power generation record on April 26 of 10,521 megawatts. It was the first time in the state’s history that utility-scale solar surpassed 10.5 gigawatts. Then two days later, on Saturday, April 29, that record was broken when 10,539 megawatts were generated at 1:40 PM.

California also hit a new record for the instantaneous portion of demand met by renewable energy on Saturday at 73%, just 15 minutes before the solar record, with solar and wind alone meeting 64% of demand. What is even more remarkable, according to PV Magazine, is that this does not even count all of the solar power available in the state. California had an estimated 6.6 gigawatts of behind-the-meter solar as of the end of January 2018. That extra amount of solar energy is not reflected in California ISO output data.

Over the full year of 2017, renewable energy sources — excluding large hydro plants — represented 31% of California’s in-state electricity generation. With hydroelectric generation included, the total was more than half of all generation.

Flexibility Is The Key

Mixed in with all this excellent news is a little bit of not so good news. On the Saturday the new record was set, the California ISO wasted about 10 megawatts of electricity in a process known as curtailment. It couldn’t use it and it couldn’t give it away, so it was lost. In all, it amounted to less than 6% of the electricity generated that day but it still points to the struggle utility operators have to balance demand with supply when renewables are part of the mix.

For instance, while renewables were being curtailed, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was running at full capacity. Last week, we reported on new research that suggests nuclear and renewables could join forces to reduce electricity made from burning natural gas or coal. Some find it hard to say anything nice about nuclear power, but if it can curb fossil fuel use, maybe we should hold our noses and welcome this bit of news.

Battery storage is rapidly making time-shifting in the utility industry feasible. Put simply, that means making electricity when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing and storing it for use later. When that happens, electricity from burning fossil fuels will truly become a thing of the past.

 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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