40% of California Grid Power from Solar, Sometimes Costs less than Nothing

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

For the first time, on the day of March 23, 40% of Californian grid power between 11 am and 2 pm was generated by utility-scale solar plants.

This proportion was a seasonal effect but not a fluke, and it certainly points to what will be routine in the very near future.

California has so much solar power now that sometimes the price of electricity turns negative. Natural gas plant owners actually have to pay the state to take their electricity when that happens. But they make up for it during high-demand periods.

The negative prices were not passed on to consumers because they get charged for the whole mix, and California electricity rates are among the highest in the country.

If you count in the electricity generated by rooftop solar panels, then on that day at that time, California was actually getting fifty percent of its electricity from solar.

This level of solar electricity generation is new in California. During the past year, there has been a 50% increase in utility-scale solar generation.

California now has nearly 10 gigawatts of solar power. That is more than the entire country of Britain. It is more than the entire country of France. Even more than the entire country of India.

If you looked at all the electricity generated in California on the day of March 23, you’d find that 56.7 percent of it was generated by renewewables– in addition to solar there are wind turbines, hydroelectric from dams, geothermal and biomass.

Jobs in solar energy in California expanded by 67% year on year.

California wants a third of its grid energy to come from renewables in only 3 years, in 2020. It wants the proportion to rise to 50% by 2030.

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Related video:

Wochit: ” Solar Power Continues to Grow in California”

9 Responses

  1. I spent a mostly very nice 45 years in California, both South and North, where my memory of typical temperatures in the three cooler seasons of the year, even in Laguna Beach and San Diego, was several degrees lower than what we’re seeing now on similar days in the Northwest. I also remember reading from afar about the horrible electricity price rip-off game that was legally perpetrated on Californians in the early 21st Century, I was so glad I got out before that, I might have become so angry I would have gone over the edge if I had lived that mess, on my marginal business income at the time.

    Thus I must again thank you so much for this positive news, I appreciate it very much. I will think harder about installing solar capacity at my place, where I’ve been having to find money to solve problems for 3 years in a row, yet I’ve got eastern, southern, and western exposures, I may as well invest in something positive as soon as I can.

    • If you’re going to be in your house 10 years, you are losing money by not putting in solar panels now.

    • I went to California just as the 2001 electricity crisis was dying down. Not many complaints about PG&E, a little pricey, but I’ve always been frugal in my use. Got solar in 2009, and double up to cover electric cars a bit over a year back. So power wise its not been bad.

      The climate you get depends strongly upon microclimates, mostly how far you are from the coast. I’m in the hottest town in the Bay area, and we get 15-20 100plus days a year, so its not such a nice climate for many.

    • Yes

      All that is needed is the POLITICAL WILL to make the investment in non-carbon energy and to drive out carbon energy.

      All the technology exists today and is getting cheaper by the month.

      Investment today means near free energy for the rest of time.

      This “almost free” energy concept is why China is investing so much today. By 2030 china may not need to import any energy from other countries and will be spending much less for energy internally meaning a massive increase in social capability with very low cost.

  2. Yes, photovoltaic power is happening. Same with wind power. Parts of Texas have an excess of electricity on winter nights. But, how to use it effectively? How to match demand to supply minute by minute?

    Yeah, batteries.

    But we also need a “smart grid” — a distribution network that’s capable of announcing moment by moment supply. Why can’t time-shiftable load like hot water heaters and car chargers accept signals saying, “go” or “wait?”

    In Norway the power network uses a sideband on FM radio (the same channel used to announce song names so they can be displayed on car radios) to announce moment-to-moment power prices.

    The time has come to get this right.

  3. Before we put up panels, our electricity cost an average of $11.31 per day. After panel, first year: $3.03 per day; second year: $2.99 per day.

  4. California expects solar gen to roughly double within the next five years, at which point solar alone will be generating more than 100% of need at times. This year is a bit unique, as there is a lot of stream flow with the record to near record water year, and the hydro has to be run flat out in order to discharge the water. So the solar curtailments that have been happening some days recently are a bit of a fluke given the current system balance, but won’t be in a couple of years.

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