Solar Generation Hits New Record High On California ISO Grid
On Feb. 24, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) reported a new all-time solar generation peak of 8,792 MW on its power grid. That instantaneous production high, reached at 1:42 p.m. PT, beat the ISO’s previous solar peak record of 8,545 MW, which was set on Sept. 14, 2016. More broadly – and perhaps more importantly – the new ISO record also underscores the ongoing success of California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
“The state of California has one of the most aggressive renewables policies in the U.S., with utilities mandated to procure renewables that will serve 50 percent of their retail sales by 2030,” says Steven Greenlee, a California ISO spokesperson. “The solar peaks the ISO are seeing reflect that the utilities have been actively adding renewables to their portfolios, more renewable generators are interconnecting to the grid, and in turn, higher and higher amounts of solar energy are generated on our system. It also means that the energy used in California is becoming cleaner, thus reducing greenhouse-gas emissions produced by in-state power plants.”
Greenlee points out that the ISO reached a new solar peak over a dozen times in 2016 alone. “As more solar is interconnected to the system, we expect to see more solar peak production records set,” he says.
In addition to the solar peaks, Greenlee continues, “We also are seeing renewables – driven by wind and solar – serving a larger portion of our load.” For example, he says renewables served a whopping 54% and 56% of the ISO’s load on May 14 and May 15, 2016, respectively. “Renewables often will serve about 30 percent of load.”
California’s 50% by 2030 RPS is, without a doubt, spurring the development of more clean energy. Greenlee says that as of Dec. 31, 2016, RPS resources – including solar, wind, geothermal, small hydro, biofuel, and battery energy storage – made up approximately 28% of the resources interconnected to the ISO grid. Solar accounted for almost 50% of that total, followed by wind at 30%.
According to Greenlee, about 2 GW of solar generation was added to the ISO grid from June 2015 to June 2016, which mirrored the amount of solar previously added between June 2014 and June 2015.
“We expect this trend to continue as the utilities work to meet the state’s RPS 2030 deadline, which will require about an additional 15,000 MW of RPS resources, with a significant amount of that capacity expected to be in the form of solar,” he explains.
However, the meteoric growth of California renewable energy isn’t without its challenges.
Greenlee says, “The ISO has also analyzed the challenges associated with adding thousands of megawatts of renewables, with solar composing the majority.” Although the ISO is currently in the process of updating its so-called Duck Curve analysis, Greenlee suggests one of the operator’s main concerns remains managing future oversupply conditions.