Half a year has passed since we last checked in on the progress of solar power production in California. Not a long time in the grand scheme of things, but with tons of new installations coming on-line, it's been plenty of time for substantial solar growth in the Golden State.
As noted by ReWire’s Chris Clarke, on Tuesday this week the state’s utility-scale photovoltaic plants reached a peak power production of 2,806 megawatts, according to the California Independent System Operator, which runs much of the state’s grid. For the day, these plants provided 16,916 megawatt-hours of energy.
To put that in perspective, our last story on this topic back in June had solar peaking at 1,897 megawatts, and six months earlier the peak was about 1,235 megawatts. So the gains, every six months, are getting bigger.
Here’s why: Several big solar plants have been added in recent months in California, led by the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. The pace of growth isn't likely to slow much in the foreseeable future, either. Big as California Valley Solar Ranch is, it will soon be dwarfed by other California plants: the 550-megawatt Topaz project and the 579-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects, about an hour north of Los Angeles, are under construction now.
And here’s another key point: as Clarke highlights, this is but a piece of California’s big solar story.
CAISO’s figures reflect only that solar generation that’s on the utility side of the state’s electric meters. According to the California Solar Statistics site, which tracks rooftop solar projects that sell power to utilities through net metering contracts, there were 1,898 megawatts of solar power generating capacity on California rooftops (and carports and other such places) as of December 4.
One final thought: Utility-scale solar provided 2.5 percent of the electricity generated in California on the record-breaking day this week, but rooftop production is very likely to have pushed solar’s total contribution well over 3 percent, perhaps even to 4 percent. Given that, and with more growth expected, it’s becoming easier and easier to imagine the day when solar accounts for 10 percent of California’s electricity generation.