The Stunning Rise In California Solar Generation

In the past week or so, California set a new record for solar generation – then broke that record – and also set a new mark for wind generation.

Chris Clarke at ReWire flagged these achievements, finding them irresistible despite their inevitability. (As he noted, “The state is building more renewable energy generating capacity than it’s ever had, so records will be dropping pretty routinely.”)

california solar records

Big new plants like Alpine Solar in Lancaster have helped California’s solar power generation to skyrocket (image via NRG Energy)

But I’ll tell you what struck me: How dramatically the generation records are being broken in the Golden State, particularly on the solar side.

Consider: Around the beginning of this year – less than five months ago – we reported that on New Year’s Eve California set a new solar generation record of 1,122 megawatts, then on January 2 this year topped that record with 1,235 MW.

The new record(s) reported by Clarke are hugely beyond that.

On May 23, solar generation hit 1,872 MW.

On May 24, it climbed to 1,897 MW.

What that means is that since the end of last year, the peak generation record has jumped 69 percent. (Note that these totals from the California Independent System Operator include only wholesale solar, leaving out the more than 1 gigawatt of solar capacity behind meters on the roofs of businesses and homes all over the state.)

Perhaps even more telling is where generation stands on nonspectacular days. As Clarke noted, when solar settled back down it was “to levels we’ve seen before, in the 1,600s.” Even that is substantially beyond where the state was peaking just a handful of months ago. Reckon that’s what happens when you put a lot of big new solar online, like this.

The new wind record, by the way, was 4,258 MW, set last Sunday.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

    • Walter Magana

      Awesome for California. I hope my state Texas can reach its full solar potential soon since Texas has the potential to generate 22,786,750 million kWh/year, more than any other state, from 7,743,000 MW of concentrated solar power plants, using 34% of Texas. At least we’re leading the nation in wind power generation with a total installed capacity of 12,212 MW from over 40 different projects. a further 21,000 megawatts of wind projects are under consideration, much of which could be accommodated by the “Competitive Renewable Energy Zones” high-voltage transmission projects scheduled for completion by the end of 2013.

      • Dzerres

        Not with that moron you have in there as Governor. Ain’t gonna happen on his watch.

        • Pete Danko

          That was my thought, too, but then I remembered that Jan Brewer, who might be an even bigger moron, is fairly pro-solar in Arizona. Maybe she’ll learn him something as some gubners conference.

        • Cody Brooks

          Think how I feel, having to live in this State with Rick Perry. On the upside I am glad to see we are investing in renewable energy. Just wish it was on a larger scale.

        • Cody Brooks

          When he ran for presidency, I felt my IQ drop. My 13 year sister could have run a better campaign. Hell, she could run the state more effectively than him.

      • choppingdownthecherrytree

        Apparently results don’t matter to you folks… compare the economy of Texas to California.. one is doing well, while the other is deep in debt with high unemployment.. one is run by Republicans like Perry… the other totally dominated by Progressive Democrats…

        The only suspect IQ on here is your own…

        This Solar plant in Lancaster is great.. but its peak output is a mere 66mw… that’s just 3.3% of the output of the former San Onofre Power Plant.. I’m all FOR Solar… just wish some of the big mouths on here would act rather than just blather on all the time.. go get Solar for your home !!