News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

State May Have Set New Solar Record Today

California's winter sun still breaking records | Photo: wonderlane/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Happy New Year: it looks as though California may have set a new solar record Thursday, with more than 3,000 megawatts of solar electricity flowing into the grid at noon.

The tentative news comes in the form of a graph on the website of the California Independent System Operator (CaISO), the independent agency that manages most of the state's power grid. Though the graph hasn't been reviewed by one of CaISO's actual humans for accuracy, it shows that for almost a half hour starting at noon on Thursday, January 2, more than 3,000 megawatts (or 3 gigawatts) of solar power flowed into the state's grid from its wholesale solar power generating plants.

If that tentative graph turns out to be accurate, that would mean that January 2 -- one of the darkest days of the year -- broke the record for the greatest wholesale solar output in the state's history.

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Update: CaISO has confirmed the record:

As always when we report these record solar outputs from CaISO's grid -- the last being in December -- a few reminders are in order.

First, the figure doesn't include residential and most commercial rooftop solar, because CaISO can't track solar that's installed on the opposite side of an electric meter. California Solar Statistics reports 1,920 megawatts of rooftop solar installed in California as of New Year's Day, and that likely excludes several hundred megawatts of generating capacity not covered by the California Solar Initiative incentives.

Secondly, the short winter days mean actual solar energy output is still rather low compared to where it'll be later in the year, when the sun is higher in the sky and stays there longer.

And third, in the most buzzkilling reminder of all, California's solar generating capacity is still woefully behind a few countries, especially Germany. In July, Germany's solar panels set what as far as ReWire can tell is still the world's record output, at 24 gigawatts -- eight times what California may have reached this week. California is still considerably behind Italy and Japan as well.

Still, we'll take it. Here's the happy graph:

January 2, 2014 renewable energy output according to CaISO | Photo: CaISO

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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