California Solar Keeps Growing, Breaking Records


This week brought word that in the last month the California transmission system twice broke U.S. records for solar powered energy by bringing on 1,000 MW of solar energy at one time. This record of solar powered energy is equal to the amount of energy generated by two large gas-fired power plants or enough clean energy to power the city of San Francisco. This achievement serves as evidence that the state is making progress toward meeting its renewable energy goals.

The news came from leaders of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) at the annual ISO Stakeholder Symposium, attended by energy leaders and stakeholders this week in Sacramento. 

While still small compared to other power sources, the amount of solar energy in California is growing fast. The record shows that solar power comes online when it is needed most and can provide a clean alternative during peak energy demand hours. 

(Photo credit: California ISO)

The three organizations also hailed recent successes found under California’s 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – one of the world’s most ambitious renewable energy programs.

The RPS, established last year under Senate Bill 1X 2, requires California to source 33% of their electricity sales from renewable energy sources by 2020.This amount of clean energy would be enough to power nearly 9 million homes. Just last month, a recent CPUC report showed that the state’s three largest private electric utilities: Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, have all met the RPS intermediate goal of 20% renewable energy for years 2011-2013 (the goal increases to 25% renewable energy for years 2014-2016), and each utility has over 3,000 megawatts of new renewable energy set to come online this year, sourced from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small hydroelectric plants.

This week’s solar record announcement for California comes just two months after the CPUC reported that the state had become the first in the nation to install more than 1,000 megawatts of customer-generated solar energy at more than 122,000 sites, putting California one-third of the way toward its target for the end of year 2016. Customer generated solar is additional to the record breaking solar on the transmission system. 

This landmark is just the first of many new records to come. Currently in California, a number of large solar power plants are in construction and the California utilities have contracted thousands of additional megawatts of clean power, so expect more record breaking announcements in the near future!