A New California Solar Record... In February

It looks as though California has broken another solar power record, and it's done so in one of the least-sunny times of year possible. According to preliminary figures provided by the California Independent System Operator, the state's grid received more than 1,300 megawatts of power from solar arrays for a few hours on Wednesday, likely an all-time record -- in a month when the sun shines with less intensity than at most other times of year.

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Keep in mind that California only passed the 1,000-megawatt mark in its solar generating output on August 20, 2012, and Wednesday's apparent output is around 33 percent higher. That's despite the fact that the February sun stays lower in the sky than it does in August, and delivers less energy to each square foot of solar panel as a result.

This record has to be the result of a rapid increase in installations of solar panels since August, which means that as the sun arcs higher in the sky as we approach summer, that solar energy output is only going to grow -- even if Californians don't continue to install more solar panels, which we assuredly will.

In other words, 2013 is going to be a year of one record after another for solar energy feeding into the grid. We may be forced to decide only to report the records when they pass multiples of 1,000.

Lest Californians get cocky, though: Germany announced a world record of 22 gigawatts of solar feeding into that nation's grid almost a year ago, and that was before the additional seven or so gigawatts of new solar capacity Germany installed in the rest of 2012. We've got a ways to go to catch up.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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