The boom in solar electricity generation in California caused the state to hit two major milestones in March. First, California renewable energy hit a record for the state by serving 56.7% of all California’s electricity demand at 11:25 a.m. on Thursday, March 23. About half that demand was served by solar, with wind picking up most the rest along with a small contribution from hydro, biogas, biomass, and geothermal power.
Using that much renewable electricity has typically been seen as a challenge for grid operators. China, for example, has recently had to curtail (waste) large amounts of wind electricity it could not use. California is now entering that territory as well. The U.S. Department of Energy wants America’s grids to be able to handle 100% renewables at least part of the time, and it looks like California may be the testing bed for some of the necessary technology.
Which leads to California’s other major milestone, it saw some negative wholesale electricity prices in March. Specifically, on March 11, 40% of the net grid power produced from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. was from utility-scale solar. That led to wholesale prices dropping below zero for a short period of time, even though consumers continued to see their prices stay above national averages. The U.S. Energy Information Administration explained that negative prices are usually caused when generators with high shut-down or restart costs must compete with other generators to avoid operating below minimum equipment ratings. In other words, they need somebody to buy their electricity at midday so they can keep running until the sun goes down.
In all, solar capacity in California has grown from 1 gigawatt in 2007 to 14 gigawatts at the end of 2016. That is a dramatic increase that may not slow down anytime soon.
Greenwave Energy embraces all forms of renewable energy, bringing new options to California residents. We currently offer carbon offset natural gas, Renewable Energy Certificates, and will soon be offering affordable rooftop solar installations.