California Sets Two New Solar Records
The escalating integration of solar has created “a new operating paradigm” for California’s grid operator, although the escalation is now on hold.
Mild temperatures and sunny skies helped California set two new solar records in recent days.
On Sunday, March 4, the California Independent System Operator saw an all-time peak percentage of demand served by solar, hitting a record 49.95 percent at 12:58 p.m. That’s up from the previous peak of 47.2 percent set on May 14, 2017.
“The record is a result of a cool, sunny day,” Anne Gonzales, senior public information officer at CAISO, wrote in an email.
“Because it was a weekend, and the weather was mild, the minimum load was relatively low, around 18,800 megawatts,” she said. “Meanwhile, solar production was more than 9,400 megawatts.”
A day later, on March 5, CAISO set another solar record, this time hitting a new peak for solar production of 10,411 megawatts at 10:18 a.m. The previous record was 9,913 megawatts set on June 17, 2017.
It’s no surprise that solar is making up a larger and larger portion of California’s electricity mix. The state’s three investor-owned utilities are well ahead of schedule on their renewable energy procurement plans and on track to meet the state’s 33 percent mandate for 2020. At the same time, community-choice aggregators (CCAs) are investing in additional solar installations.
California’s success to date is driving a conversation around the possibility of reaching 100 percent renewables in the state, while also stirring debate over how to manage these variable resources in an evolving grid system.
“The escalating integration of solar power has created a new operating paradigm for our system operators,” said Gonzales. She pointed out that on March 4 the grid not only set a new solar record, but also handled a record peak for ramping.
“Our operators are skilled at handling these ramps, and we expect them to continue,” Gonzales said.