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Statewide records for solar generation shattered

Figures don't include power produced on residential rooftops

SDG&E has the highest, or among the highest, utility rates in the nation.
SDG&E has the highest, or among the highest, utility rates in the nation.

California's solar industry has been setting records, and then breaking them, for total energy generated from utility-scale solar installations all summer.

According to PV Magazine the California Independent System Operator, which controls the state's power grid, reported a new record for power generation at 6.16 gigawatts on June 7. For comparison's sake, that's roughly three times the output of the now-shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station when it was operating at full capacity.

Records keep falling

By July 13, that record was shattered with a power generation just shy of 6.3 gigawatts, rising by about two-thirds of the output of the controversial new Pio Pico gas plant slated for construction in the Otay Mesa area.

Each successive peak generation record has fallen within a few days for the past month, and on August 20 generation topped 6.39 gigawatts.

More to the picture

Even these numbers are considered low, as they don't include any "behind-the-meter" solar generation, meaning small-scale rooftop installations done by consumers are not counted in the tally, only larger utility-scale projects such as those sited in the Imperial Valley east of San Diego.

Another 3.2 gigawatts of peak generation capacity is reportedly found in consumer-scale solar projects across the state, potentially adding another 50 percent of generation capacity to the cited present figures.

When the sun doesn't shine

Opponents of renewable-heavy energy portfolios (Governor Jerry Brown has set a target of 50% renewable energy statewide by 2030) have long argued that solar is a risky basket in which to place one's eggs. What happens when the sun goes down and energy demand goes up?

The rationale has been used to argue in favor of new gas-fired power plants such as Pio Pico or the Carlsbad Energy Center proposed to replace a similar aging facility along the North County coast.

But, PV finds, components of a greener system including wind energy, which tends to pick up in the evening as the sun goes down as solar output fades, and energy storage systems (Arizona has a system that stores solar power up to six hours, Spain can bank green power for up to a day) can alleviate some of the concerns generated by inconsistencies in the weather. An increase in wind and solar generation statewide has already shifted the peak demand for traditional power plants from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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SDG&E has the highest, or among the highest, utility rates in the nation.
SDG&E has the highest, or among the highest, utility rates in the nation.

California's solar industry has been setting records, and then breaking them, for total energy generated from utility-scale solar installations all summer.

According to PV Magazine the California Independent System Operator, which controls the state's power grid, reported a new record for power generation at 6.16 gigawatts on June 7. For comparison's sake, that's roughly three times the output of the now-shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station when it was operating at full capacity.

Records keep falling

By July 13, that record was shattered with a power generation just shy of 6.3 gigawatts, rising by about two-thirds of the output of the controversial new Pio Pico gas plant slated for construction in the Otay Mesa area.

Each successive peak generation record has fallen within a few days for the past month, and on August 20 generation topped 6.39 gigawatts.

More to the picture

Even these numbers are considered low, as they don't include any "behind-the-meter" solar generation, meaning small-scale rooftop installations done by consumers are not counted in the tally, only larger utility-scale projects such as those sited in the Imperial Valley east of San Diego.

Another 3.2 gigawatts of peak generation capacity is reportedly found in consumer-scale solar projects across the state, potentially adding another 50 percent of generation capacity to the cited present figures.

When the sun doesn't shine

Opponents of renewable-heavy energy portfolios (Governor Jerry Brown has set a target of 50% renewable energy statewide by 2030) have long argued that solar is a risky basket in which to place one's eggs. What happens when the sun goes down and energy demand goes up?

The rationale has been used to argue in favor of new gas-fired power plants such as Pio Pico or the Carlsbad Energy Center proposed to replace a similar aging facility along the North County coast.

But, PV finds, components of a greener system including wind energy, which tends to pick up in the evening as the sun goes down as solar output fades, and energy storage systems (Arizona has a system that stores solar power up to six hours, Spain can bank green power for up to a day) can alleviate some of the concerns generated by inconsistencies in the weather. An increase in wind and solar generation statewide has already shifted the peak demand for traditional power plants from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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Comments
5

"Opponents of renewable-heavy energy portfolios have long argued that solar is a risky basket in which to place one's eggs. What happens when the sun goes down and energy demand goes up?" This argument comes up frequently but in my opinion has no merit. Solar users have always relied on the utility companies to provide power in the evening/night so there is no increase in demand when the sun goes down. Demand by solar users is however dramatically reduced during the day when the sun is shining. The so called "peaker" plants are primarily used during daylight hours when demand from non solar users increases and are rarely if ever run during evening hours. Peaker plants are very expensive and most will only run on a limited basis. Utility companies like them because ratepayers cover the cost.

Aug. 24, 2015

One question that is never answered is: How long do the solar panels last? My experience with solar lighting is that at some point the solar panel fails. If this is true of small solar panels is it true with the larger ones? The solar panel is the most expensive part of the system. I am sure that solar panels have improved over time but do they have a shelf life and if so how long until all these solar panels "go dark"? No solar sales person will answer that question.

Aug. 24, 2015

AlexClarke (AC) The DC solar panels on my RV were from the last century. They performed at about 65% of their rated power. I had to replace the batteries too before selling the unit. I'm waiting for the personal fusion reactor that fits next to the water heater. ... and the flying car that Popular Science promised me in 1959.

Entropy increases with time.

Aug. 24, 2015

I've had my panels on the roof for 9 yrs now and have not seen any drop in the output. The panels are warranted for 25 yrs.

Aug. 25, 2015

What happens when Sacramento decides to tax solar power? And believe me, it's coming... they'll happily mandate that you install a meter and pay, and cheerfully fine you and throw you in a cell if you decide to skip that part.

Aug. 25, 2015

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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