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California Breaks 3 New Renewable Energy Records

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Red-tagged Joshua trees with wind turbines in the background | Photo: Don Barrett/Flickr/Creative Commons License

We told ourselves we wouldn't do this: ReWire has documented so many "solar records" for California it was starting to get a little repetitive. The state is building more renewable energy generating capacity than it's ever had, so records will be dropping pretty routinely.

But we just couldn't resist this one: between May 23 and 26, California broke three records for renewable energy feeding into the grid: two for solar, and one for wind.

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On May 23, the California Independent System Operator (CaISO) -- the agency that runs the power grid for most of the state -- announced that a new record amount of solar power was feeding into its power grid, and that the state was edging toward 1,900 megawatts of solar energy on the grid:

If you're looking for a way to grasp the figure, 1,872 megawatts is just about enough to run an efficient mid-sized window air conditioning unit for every resident of Los Angeles. It's a lot of power, though of course it pales by comparison to solar output in places like Germany, and to overall peak demand statewide.

That record didn't stand very long, as it happens: it was beaten precisely 23 and one half hours later.

Two days later, on a somewhat windy Sunday, the state posted a record from another non-carbon power source:

As of Tuesday both sources have dropped back down to levels we've seen before, in the 1,600s for solar and 3,100s for wind: a reminder that both sources of energy are somewhat unpredictable -- wind especially so.

It's also worth remembering that these totals count only that energy that flows into CaISO's power grid. Renewable generation that's on the consumer side of the electric meter, mainly rooftop solar but also including a few microwind turbines here and there, don't get noticed by the grid except as reduced demand.

Still, on Sunday May 26, wind turbines provided about 16 percent of CaISO's power delivery. Love wind turbines or hate them, that's a milestone worth noting.

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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