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California Breaks Solar Record: Admit it - We Need These Folks

Oct. 16, 2014
California’s solar experience will help shape the future for the rest of the nation.

Love it or hate it, but you have to concede that we need the Golden State to work out the bugs and demonstrate the value of solar power for the rest of the nation.

Kick California out of the Union? A recent poll found that, when asked which state should be asked to leave, a majority of those interviewed said the Golden State should be thrown out. Well, that’s not going to happen. But it makes you wonder - why the animosity?

Maybe it’s jealousy. California has a great climate and great career opportunities. California gave us Google, Apple, and the rest of the Silicon Valley gang. Of course, the state also gave us hula hoops and pet rocks and, in my humble opinion (having lived there for 40 years), a lot of political nuttiness.

But the Golden State is a proven trend setter. Everything from the Valley Girl dialect to miniskirts started in California and migrated (some say metastasized) eastward.

And now California is on a binge of breaking solar penetration records. The latest occurred on September 29 when California’s utility-scale solar power plants produced 4,903 megawatts. That was 16 percent of the state’s total demand. And this number doesn’t include the ubiquitous rooftop solar.

As reported in PV Magazine:

“As the California Independent System Operator (ISO) only measures the output of utility-scale PV and CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) generation, this number is still short of the state's full solar output. According to GTM Research and SEIA's Solar Market Insight report California had another 2.8 GW of behind-the-meter PV at the end of the second quarter of 2014.

Both utility-scale PV and CSP output peaked late in the day, with PV reaching a peak of 4.25 GW at 2:17 PM and CSP hitting 659 MW at 3:08 PM. As state-wide demand was just under 30 GW at 2 PM, utility-scale PV and CSP peaked at around 16% of demand.

While still behind Italy and Germany, California has reached higher levels of solar penetration than France or the UK as measured by percentage of demand met. If California were an independent nation, it would have roughly the same level of solar penetration as the average in Western Europe.”

A year ago California utility leaders and system experts were in a dither about the uncontrollable rise of California solar power, particularly the unstoppable deluge of rooftop solar and the increasing need for fast ramping system generation and other mitigating technologies. (See "Solar Will Shine Brighter With Smarter Inverters")

Despite all the hand-wringing and pessimism within our conservative industry, it looks like California is working out the bugs, proving that solar power, at least utility-owned, can be a highly valuable generation asset.

I expect that, as always, California’s solar experience will help shape the future for the rest of the nation. After all, look at the track record - California gave us fortune cookies, martinis, Popsicles and Jacuzzis.

Let’s let them stay in the Union, whaddya say?

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