Very soon, there is going to be a headline reading, “California just ran on 100% clean electricity” – and it could very well happen this spring. With that, as happens every spring time in California:
- Large-scale solar meets record 49.95% of demand
- California blows through solar power, renewable energy output records
- Summer solstice sets solar record in California
– we’re in record setting season!
On Saturday, April 13, at 1:50 PM the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) reported instantaneous electricity generation of 11,011 MWac from solar power facilities connected to the transmission grid. If the 7.7 GWdc of behind the meter solar is running optimally, that would probably push total to at least 17 GWac of electricity generation coming from solar power.
The previously reported record by CAISO was set on 3/25 at just over 10.8 GW.
Just twenty minutes before that peak production moment, the CAISO region set a new electricity export record of 1,503 MW, which means that California was exporting a record amount of its solar-boosted mid-day electricity surplus, and reducing the need to curtail solar and wind. In following conversations of the below tweet, it has been observed that there is 10 GW of electricity transfer capacity out of California.
New record "low" for Imports on @California_ISO yesterday. Hit -1,503 at 13:10.@cody_a_hill
How low can this import number grow – or should I say how high can the exports go? pic.twitter.com/wcYDY79q3B
— Joe Deely (@jdeely) April 14, 2019
Of interest in the above tweet is the shape of the Renewables generation plot: it has “broad shoulders” – meaning production climbs to a peak, and then goes roughly straight for a long while, before dropping. Around 10 am the shoulders start to firm up, and they then run until 4 PM – six straight hours of consistent renewable energy output without the need for batteries.
In a recent report by Fitch Ratings, Global Renewables Performance Review: Solar Outperforms Wind on a Global Scale, it was found that solar power availability was greater than 98% of projected time and that solar more often out performed projections than under performed.
Two other big spring time numbers have also been hit, the first being a record per CAISO with an “instantaneous maximum demand served by (utility) solar” on March 17, at 11 AM of 58.6% of all electricity usage. When adding in that prior noted approximate 7.7 GWdc / 6 GWac of behind the meter generation, the grid was running on around 69% sunshine.
And last, but actually most important (and noted in Friday’s pvMB) is that in another tweet, it was noted that on Wednesday, April 10th, at 11:05 am a full 93% of electricity generation in the ISO region was coming from zero carbon sources. Large hydro electric sources, plus nuclear were generating 25% of the state’s electricity. At this moment, the state was also exporting 412 MW of electricity, while burning zero coal. The only fossils burning were 1.55 GW of gas plants. When looking at the numbers for the whole day on CAISO’s website, it becomes clear that for a very large portion of the day (remember the aforementioned broad shoulders) – California’s electricity generation was very similar to 11:05 AM and its 93% zero carbon electricity.
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While its good that renewables are producing so much of CA’s power now at times, doesnt this also have a down side? New installed solar/ wind will start having periods of time where its going to be wasted, once we see periods over 100%.
Storage is still in its infancy, is there any chance that infrastructure can be built to transfer the excess power to where it could be used? Otherwise this could pose a stumbling block for further installations.
Electricity is being exported, but some is also being curtailed in spring and fall.
People don’t understand – this is possible nightmare.
As you exceed 100% you will start curtailing. Mostly hydrocarbon based generators. Those generators have loans, those loans must be repaid . They are repaid by selling electricity. If they are curtailed they are not selling electricity. The loans don’t get paid, and the generators go bankrupt. or they start to charge a lot more per kwh.
So you have more and more assets, under producing, and having to charge a premium. This will cause your electricity prices to spike 20-30%. This will cause more people to check out of the system, by installing home solar. Transmission lines work like everything else – they depend on massive usage to get unit prices low. But with less usage, your problem gets even worse. You raise electricity prices, and again drive people off the grid. Now you have a smaller and smaller customer base supporting more and more infrastructure.
I don’t know how this story ends – no one does. So far, in the countries furthest along this curve, things get pretty ugly. Like tripling electricity costs ugly. Maybe electric cars can soak up the excess. maybe some sort of storage scheme. Maybe smart metering. I have no idea, and neither does anyone else.
Think of a manufacturing plant that is producing the ultimate in perishable goods, and can’t be controlled or turned off.
We want the fossil generators to go out of business. That’s part of the plan.
Interesting to see the naysayers. While there are some issues with solar curtailment, it’s obviously better to have too much clean renewable energy than not enough. And there is a lot of technology being developed so that we can use that solar at night–in fact, one of the larger solar farms (Solana in southwestern Arizona) uses the salt thermal energy storage method to run turbines at night from the sun’s energy received the day before (also being done in Spain and Chile, hopefully other places too). There are a lot of other ways being developed as well. In the meantime, some of us who have solar panels try our hardest to charge our car, run the dishwasher/clothes drier, etc. when the sun is shining (I have shift work, so perhaps easier for me than others–though with more car chargers now at workplaces, that means day workers can charge from the grid when more solar is generated, sometimes with the solar power being generated on site above the parking lot). And I’d have to disagree with Tennhauser’s statement “Maybe smart metering. I have no idea, and neither does anyone else”. A lot of people have great ideas, some of which are already being done on a large scale commercially (see above at Solana).
Great, lighting up the world with solar energy to put generator down, no more environmental pollution.
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