California sets (another) solar generation record

My readers will forgive the delay in posting, and also that before I get to my exploration of Breakthrough Institute’s possible motives for misleading the public on the state of the solar industry, I bring some breaking news.

california_iso_renewables_sources_13_0809This last Friday, California’s utility-scale solar PV & CSP (concentrating solar power, also known as solar thermal electric) output peaked at 2.57 GW shortly before 1 PM (CAISO data here). This follows a string of records in late July and earlier in the week.

This means that utility-scale solar generation met 8.3% of demand. Later that afternoon, total utility-scale renewable energy output, including hydro, peaked at 27% of demand.

These numbers are not yet to where Germany is, where wind and solar have peaked at 60% of demand, or Italy, where renewable output has at least once met the nation’s entire electric demand. But it is substantial progress for the state.

Correction to Solar and nukes…

These new numbers, and more specifically more accurate numbers on peak demand and additional information on the role of other renewables have inspired a correction of a previous post: Solar and nukes in a California summer.

The part about nukes was correct. California is doing just fine without San Onofre, and should probably shut down Diablo Canyon as well. But the estimates of how much solar we could add need to be revised.

A basic problem is that I’m frankly not sure how much PV & CSP is installed in California. The last count by SEIA was 2.90 GW at the end of 2012, and another 408 MW in the first quarter of 2013. Since they say “solar” I’m assuming this is CSP and PV, and this total would be 3.31 GW at the end of the first quarter of 2013.

I also don’t know how much was added in the past four and a half months, as SEIA has not put out its second quarter 2013 numbers yet. Also, I am unsure how much of this is “behind-the-meter” residential and commercial PV plants. And this becomes an issue because the California ISO only measures the output of utility-scale PV and CSP.

So since this basic information is still missing, I cannot come up with an accurate estimate of how much PV and CSP we could add to get to Germany’s level. However, my earlier estimate of 7x as much is excessive, given that at the time when PV is producing the most, demand was only 31 GW, much lower than the peak of 38-45 GW.


Why are these numbers important? Because at some point, Germany and California are going to have to come up with a technical solution to integrate the high level of variable renewable energy output. This could mean one of several things, including a more active electricity trade, but if so Germany will have to trade electrons with somewhere that does not also have an excess of solar production at the same times. That would leave out Czech Republic and Italy, and soon the Low Countries may join the fold.

Most likely, it will mean electricity storage. This could be accomplished through pumped hydro in Switzerland, Austria and Southern Germany, or batteries. Germany so far has opted to subsidize small-scale battery systems to accompany residential and small commercial PV systems. This is a modest move relative to what it will eventually need if it continues to add multiple GW of PV every year.

So far, Germany is proving to be a real-world test case of how high levels of variable renewable energy can be integrated without widespread energy storage. Clearly, given the much lower level of PV penetration in California, it will be years before the state has to deal with this problem, but California is already taking steps by requiring that utilities procure energy storage.

Recently Japan, which will be the world’s second largest PV market this year, took a bold move forward with two pilot projects to total 80 MWh of batteries for energy storage, 60 MWh of which will be located on the island of Hokkaido.

This is all good news. Energy storage marks the second phase of the energy transition (Energiewende), which has come faster than anticipated.

Given that we are in mid-August, this is probably at the end of PV generation records for 2013. As predicted, California got through the summer just fine with only one nuclear power plant, following the shut-down of San Onofre. Stay tuned for another round of solar records in 2014, after some very large PV and CSP plants come online in California.


One comment

  1. Daniel Ferra · · Reply

    Why cant a Voting, Tax paying Homeowner, be allowed to participate in the Ca. State mandate of 33% Renewable Energy by 2020, with out third party leasing ? or using our Desert Eco-Systems ?

    In California alone, third-party solar installations account for two-thirds of the residential PV market, which exceeded non-residential for the first time.

    “Examples of how they have been “slowing the process” are:

    (1) Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which create de facto caps on the deployment of renewable energies. (The Germans don’t have any RPSs. Their FIT program is open ended, the more capacity, the merrier!)

    (2) Net-metering caps. Most states only allow a small percentage of one to two percent of peak load to be net-metered. Net-metering, therefore, will certainly “hold back the clean energy tide.”.

    (3) The third party leasing rent-to-own outfits like Sungevity, but more importantly, Solarcity, which just went public with an IPO, fight tooth and nail to protect scarce capacity carveouts (from the state RPSs) so as to bolster their chosen business models as the expense of all others. The same goes for the utility-scale folks. The in-fighting, due in part to the small de facto caps of the RPSs, have significantly slowed the deployment of renewables in the U.S.

    (4) Most importantly is how we connect distributed renewable energies to the grid in the U.S., the most salient difference between the American net-metering program and the German feed-in tariff is that net-metering is *retail* energy whereas the FIT is *wholesale* energy. Thus, net-metering does little more than offset onsite loads and in the process it shifts the rate burdens of lost customers onto other ratepayers. Those rate burdens also include all of the utility’s overhead as well since compensation is at the retail rate. A FIT, on the other hand, as wholesale energy feeds the energy directly into the electric grid, and because it is must take wholesale energy it must be used first, and in many cases it will off set more expensive energies found on the grid, such as peaker plant power, spinning reserves and so forth saving rate payers money.” Bob Tregilus.

    Third party leasing is fine on the surface and is making a contribution in reducing our fossil fuel consumption, but third party leasers, the Big Boy solar companies that build in the Fragile Desert Eco-Systems, and the Utilities all fight over Renewable Portfolio Standards Pie allowance.

    All Three leagues have a piece of the pie, but there is 4 to 8 teams in each league that want a piece of that carve out money pie, causing huge infighting, and as of right now the homeowner is left out of the ballgame, with no chance of eating the all american pie, why? because we are not represented at the Renewable Portfolio Standard dining hall, with a chair at the pie eating table.

    “The benefits of owning a renewable energy system far outweigh the benefits of a lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA). Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, homeowners are eligible for a federal personal income tax credit up to 30% of the purchase cost of their renewable energy system, without a maximum limit.** Homeowners can utilize the incentive money in any way they choose. But homeowners that choose to lease their systems turn over their rebates and incentives to the third party lease or PPA companies associated with the solar systems installed on their homes.”

    “The owner of a renewable energy system is also sheltered from rising electricity costs, which have historically increased on average of 3-5% each year. This presents homeowners with opportunities to save money each month on energy and also reduces their reliance on third-party utility companies. By purchasing a renewable energy system with cash or through a loan, a homeowner can completely pay off his or her system and then independently produce clean energy.

    By choosing a lease or a PPA option homeowners are essentially substituting their utility companies with third-party leasing companies. Additionally, homeowners will likely be required to purchase their systems, renew their leases, or have the systems removed from their roof and revert to paying utility rates once their leases have ended.” Charlie Angione.

    “There’s absolutely no such thing as a $0 down solar lease or PPA and here’s why. A requirement of both of these financing programs is that you agree upfront to give the leasing or PPA company your 30% federal tax credit which is worth thousands of dollars as well as any other financial incentives.

    At $5.57 per Watt. a 6 kW solar system would yield a federal tax credit of $10,026!

    With a $0 down loan instead of a lease, you’ll get to keep the 30% federal tax credit as well as all other applicable financial incentives for yourself and you’ll own your solar system instead of renting it, for a much greater return on investment.

    And if you do decide to lease instead of own, good luck ever selling your home with a lease attached to it. What homebuyer will want to purchase your home and assume your remaining lease payments on a used solar system on your roof, when they can buy and own a brand new system for thousands less.” Ray Boggs

    The Feed in Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in Renewable Energy, the California FiT allows eligible customers generators to enter into 10- 15- 20- year contracts with their utility company to sell the electricity produced by renewable energy, and guarantees that anyone who generates electricity from R E source, whether homeowner, small business, or large utility, is able to sell that electricity. It is mandated by the State to produce 33% R E by 2020.

    FIT policies can be implemented to support all renewable technologies including:
    Photovoltaics (PV)
    Solar thermal
    Fuel cells
    Tidal and wave power.

    California law does not allow Homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems.

    Allowing homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems, is a true capitalistic tool, that will give us the potential democratize our energy generation and transform millions of homes and small business into energy generators, during Sandy, Solar homes where not utilized to their full potential, because there was no disconnect and or transfer switch, to turn off incoming grid and start in home Solar power. how comforting it would be, to have mandatory transfer switches on all residential and small business renewable energy installations.

    The state currently produces about 71% of the electricity it consumes, while it imports 8% from the Pacific Northwest and 21% from the Southwest.

    Natural gas was burned to make 45.3% of California’s power generated in-state in 2011. Nuclear power from Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County accounted for 9.15%, large hydropower 18.3%, renewable 16.6% and coal 1.6%.

    We need a National Feed in Tariff, for Renewable Energy, with laws that level the playing field, this petition starts with homeowners in California.

    Japan, Germany, and our state of Hawaii, will pay residents between 13 – 37 cents per kilowatt hour, here in California they will pay a commercial FiT in a few counties at 17 cents per kilowatt hour, No Residential FiT and they wont let us oversize our Residential Renewable Energy systems.

    Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: