The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

California Flexes Its Solar Muscles

At 1:41 PM on Saturday March 8, California hit a new record of solar energy output of nearly 4.1 GW. That narrowly beat out the previous record of 3.9 GW, which was set the day before. It's also more than double the peak solar output from last June, and quadruple the output from the summer of 2012. Coincident demand for the new record was about 22.6 GW, meaning at that peak solar served about 18 percent of demand, roughly enough to power three million homes. All of that data is from California ISO (CAISO), which reported the new mark earlier this week.

That record solar output, paired with a boost of wind energy, also caused spot-market electricity pricing to slip into negative pricing for a time last weekend, something that happens occasionally when renewable energy ramps up heavily and drives down market prices for other generating sources. In such a situation, it might make more economic sense for baseload plants that can't easily ramp up and down to just pay money for a short period of time in order to stay online.

Many factors go into how much solar output is churned out in a given day: how many plants are online and contributing, how many *stay* online, favorable weather conditions. In this case, the driving factor in this peak was new facilities coming online, according to CAISO spokesperson Steven Greenlee. Likely that reflects contributions from the big Ivanpah concentrated solar (CSP) plant that came online last month. Note that these two new solar output records also occurred in early March -- expect them to be short-lived as spring and summer approach with higher irradiance, even more facilities come online, and demand spikes. Those hotter summer days are, of course, precisely when the boost of daytime solar output is needed most.

CAISO now has about 11.1 GW of combined wind and solar resources interconnected to its grid, and roughly 15 GW for all renewables in its mix. And it'll continue to add more as the state pushes toward and looks beyond its current 33 percent renewable portfolio standard. On top of that, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) just authorized utilities to procure more renewable energy (and other sources like natural gas, plus more energy efficiency) to help offset the lost generation from the shuttered SONGS nuclear plant. Bringing more solar and wind into the grid increases the challenge in meeting demand when they aren't producing, i.e. when the sun doesn't shine or wind doesn't blow, so CAISO stresses more flexible technologies on the grid that can start and stop frequently and quickly, such as storage and natural gas. "We have seen production drops of over 300 MW in less than 30 minutes," Greenlee noted. (Here we invoke the infamous Duck Curve showing the steepening ramping needs and overgeneration risk -- illustrating a potential ramp need of 13 GW within three hours.)

"Duck curve" showing steep ramping needs and overgeneration risk, representing net load on March 31, 2013. Credit: CAISO

Another tool that CAISO is developing to help manage its growing renewables fleet is the Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), which opens CAISO's real-time market for last-minute balancing of supply and demand to non-ISO entities on a pay-per-use basis, broadening the pool of energy that entities can offer and buy from beyond their own balancing areas, Greenlee explained. The market will go live this October, with Oregon-based PacifiCorp as the first customer. "If the sun blocks the Southern California solar facilities, utilities can tap into the EIM and buy energy from non-ISO generators," Greenlee explained. "Or if PacifiCorp has an excess of energy, it can offer it in the EIM."

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Solar power growth impacting UK electricity sector

Diarmaid Williams

Q2 of 2015 saw a large increase in the generation of electricity from solar PV in the UK, with the growth having a significant impact on electricity market prices and other supply factors.

PACE Finance Opening Doors for C&I Solar In California

Susan Kraemer, Correspondent With its excellent renewable policy, California leads the nation in solar. Over the years both the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the California Solar Initiative drove utility scale and residential solar deployment. But w...

US Clean Power Plan Could Include Carbon Trading

Mark Drajem, Bloomberg Some businesses that back President Barack Obama’s plan to curb greenhouse gases are making a late lobbying push to add an element similar to a cap-and-trade program. With the administration set this week or next to unveil ...

Why the Future of the Yieldco Is at Risk

Haresh Patel In the past two years, the proliferation of YieldCos, and their ability to open new sources of capital for renewable energy projects, has captured the attention of the energy industry. While a YieldCo’s potential to catalyz...
Jim is Contributing Editor for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, covering the solar and wind beats. He previously was associate editor for Solid State Technology and Photovoltaics World, and has covered semiconductor manufacturing and related industries, ...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Grid-connected and Off-grid Photovoltaics

This training covers all aspects of planning, installation, maintenance,...

2015 Green Energy Expo

Stop by and visit Canadian Solar at the Green Energy Expo in Mexico City!

2015 Intersolar-South America

Canadian Solar will be exhibiting @ Intersolar-South America. Stop by an...

COMPANY BLOGS

Do Your Goals Match Your Values?

Before you set goals for your company or your personal work performance ...

LSX rises with sustainable wine making in Mexico

his custom LSX solar canopy shades the upper deck organic gard...

A Networking Story

When you’re at a networking event and you meet someone who works i...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS