In early March so much electricity was generated from solar power in California that it met nearly half of the state’s need.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on 11 March, nearly 40% of the power on the grid came from utility-scale power plants such as the Springbok 2 Solar Farm. Many California homes and businesses are also generating solar power. The cumulative total is over 10GW—and it’s growing rapidly due to California’s goal of getting half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Some California towns have ambitious goals as well, such as Lancaster, which adopted a zero net energy solar ordinance that mandates that new homes have solar.The State of California is adopting a similar ordinance for home builders, slated to go into effect in 2020.
In addition to solar, California also has wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric dams. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, on 23 March another record was set when 56.7% of power on the grid came from a combination of renewables.
As a result of the flood of power to the grid, wholesale electricity prices dropped below $0 per megawatt hour.
These milestones are achievements, but also present a few challenges for utility operators. When more energy is sent to the grid than can be used, utilities have to get rid of it. Unfortunately storage -technologies are not yet in place to handle the massive loads, but it won’t be long. In the meantime, however, such as this summer when California enjoys long sun-filled days, utilities will be juggling with multiple power sources feeding the grid, and setting prices accordingly.