Published on March 13th, 2014
by Silvio Marcacci
America’s solar energy leader is at it once again – California set two new records for solar power supply across the state grid over the span of two days last week.
Solar energy provided a record 3.9 gigawatts (GW) of electricity on March 7th, then bested that mark with 4.1GW on March 8th, according to the California ISO – enough to power about 3 million homes or 18% of overall power demand.
California’s Grid Handles The Solar Energy Surge
California’s new solar records don’t come as much of a surprise, considering the wide margin by which it leads all states in installed solar capacity. As of the end of 2013, the Golden State was shining strong with nearly 5.7GW installed solar energy, more than three times the capacity of Arizona’s 1.8GW, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The other unsurprising takeaway from California’s solar surge is the grid’s ability to integrate an ever-larger amount of renewable energy without reliability concerns, a reality most recently outlined last week when America’s largest grid operator forecast it could integrate up to 30% renewable energy without reliability concerns.
A high-renewable grid future was echoed when the International Energy Agency said high renewable energy penetration is possible in any country – even as it came under criticism for consistently underestimating the power of solar energy.
“This shows that California is making remarkable progress in not only getting new resources approved and connected to the grid, but making meaningful contributions in keeping the lights on,” said Steve Berberich, California ISO President and Chief Executive Officer.
Wind Energy Matches Solar On Way To Renewable Goals
Beyond solar energy, California is also adding massive amounts of wind energy en route to its ambitious 33% renewables by 2020 goal. California ISO’s solar record announcement also noted the state now has nearly 5.9GW of wind resources for a combined total of 11.1GW interconnected renewable energy across the grid.
In addition to adding new renewables, California is also doing well at integrating them – Saturday’s record was set in part by the fact that 78% of all installed capacity was contributing electrons to the grid. “The milestones illustrate that we are well into a new era when clean, renewable energy is shouldering its share of our electricity needs – and that is exciting,” said Berberich.
The best may be yet to come in California, though. The state added 2.7GW new solar capacity just last year, as much as had ever been cumulatively added in state history and enough to power 607,000 homes.
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