California Grid To Add Almost 100% Solar Power In 2H 2013

  • Published on May 23rd, 2013 by

Herman Trabish of Greentech Media has happened across a pretty interesting find — 97% of new electricity generation capacity in line to be added to the California grid in the second half (2H) of 2012 is from solar power projects.

This is according to the California Independent System Operator (the ISO), as published in the 2012 Annual Report on Market Issues and Performance. In total, 1,633 megawatts of generation capacity are in line to be added to the grid in 2H 2013. A whopping 1,581 megawatts (MW) are from solar projects. 52 MW are from biomass projects.

That’s a big shift from the first half of the year (and, well, all of previous history). Herman writes: “By the end of the first half of the year, the ISO will have added 3,391 megawatts of nameplate capacity, of which 2,296 megawatts will be natural gas, 565 megawatts will be wind and 530 megawatts will be solar.” Here’s a chart for a visual display of these points and the situation in 2012:

Image Credit: California ISO
Image Credit: California ISO

Herman spent a lot of time discussing various factors related to natural gas in his post (I’d recommend checking it out). A few key points I’d pull out of it are as follows (images added):

new natural gas california

estimated revenue natural gas

natural gas california

  1. Natural gas prices seem to have gotten too low to warrant investment in new natural gas projects. From the report: “The 2012 net revenue estimates for hypothetical combined-cycle and combustion-turbine units continued to fall substantially below the estimates of the annualized fixed costs for these technologies. For a new combined-cycle unit, net operating revenues earned from the markets in 2012 are estimated to be about $38 per kilowatt-year in Southern California, compared to potential annualized fixed costs of $176 per kilowatt-year.” (See 3 charts above.)
  2. More periods like 2H 2013 to come — this is the future. V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT), stated: “This is the shape of things to come.” Naturally, with solar hitting grid parity in parts of California, and combined with renewable energy targets, solar is set to keep growing at a fast clip.
  3. Clearly, there needs to be a little more balance than in 2H 2013. Technically, that could be achieved with a broad mix of renewables, demand response solutions, energy efficiency, energy storage, and/or natural gas technologies of the right kind. “What we want is a diverse renewables portfolio that includes solar PV, wind, geothermal and CSP with storage,” White said. “As time goes on, we need to smooth this out and include demand response, energy efficiency, storage, and even out-of-state resources.”
  4. Old natural gas technology not a good fit. Older/conventional natural gas plants take about 90 minutes to ramp up, which is not a good match for renewables. Furthermore, to warrant their cost, they have to run at 40% capacity, but they can’t compete with renewables on a merit order system. And as solar cuts off peak demand and cuts into peak pricing, the situation will get even more difficult.

I think the overall trend is pretty clear. Solar power is growing fast, and it will continue growing at a strong pace. Beyond that, the specifics of California’s future grid are not entirely clear.

Solar still needs a lot of support to reach its potential, especially rooftop solar. And making sure that what fills in around solar as it grows is also clean and renewable is a complementary challenge on which we need to put a strong focus.

The whole California ISO report looks like it’s worth a read, but at 231 pages, it could take several hours (or even days) to go through it all. For now, here are a handful of interesting charts and graphs I’ve pulled out of it:

utility demand response programs california

demand response programs by hourdemand response programs by monthcalifornia electricity generation

california electricity sources

renewable energy generation california

renewable energy split california

hydropower california


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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.
  • CaptD

    Too bad most of it will not be owned by US ratepayers instead of Big Utilities that want to keep US in Energy Slavery!
    This is long over due, since traditional “Big” Energy has until now been the only game in town, think public Monopoly, but run to benefit Utility shareholders.

    Now Green Energy can provide BOTH Energy and JOBS, which makes going solar very attractive, especially tp those that seek new jobs and lower energy bills!

    Powering America: How Solar Energy Creates Green Jobs and Grows the Economy


    Members of the BlueGreen Alliance, which represents more than 15 million members and supporters nationwide, held a press conference today on Capitol Hill to discuss ways to jump start job creation. One important way, they said, was to dramatically expand the use of renewable energy, including solar.“Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, providing good-paying jobs for more than 119,000 American workers,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Over the past five years, the U.S. solar energy industry has experienced sustained growth thanks to rising demand, falling costs and new financing options. Since 2008, the amount of solar powering our homes, businesses and military bases has increased six-fold–from 1,100 megawatts to more than 7,700 megawatts today, which is enough to power more than 1.2 million American homes.”

  • CaptD

    Ratepayers want low cost, SAFE energy and Solar is now ready to provide it.

    There are only three things standing in the way of FIXING our energy problem:

    1. Our powerful Utilities, who want to keep us in Energy Slavery, so that we will be forced to purchase our energy from them instead of producing it ourselves for FREE (after the initial payback).

    2. Our appointed regulators, who have a too cozy relationship with the very Utilities they regulate! They have been putting Utility shareholder profits ahead of following their sworn mandate and demanding that our “public” utilities provide energy to US at the lowest cost possible! Example: Why should Utilities be allowed to rip off residential solar panel owners by not reimburse them for the energy they add to the grid at the very same rate that the Utility pays itself when it adds energy to the grid? This would “level” the energy playing field and greatly reduce the payback periods of owning your own panels, which would make installing solar even a better deal!

    3. Our Political Leaders are beholden to the Powerful Utilities because of large Utility donations and have been until recently hesitant to propose changes to “how the energy game is played” but now with a shrinking economy, the public resistance to ever higher energy costs and record Utility shareholder profits, energy is becoming a HOT political issue that Political Leaders cannot ignore any longer, if they want to stay in office or get elected.

  • CaptD

    A Most Important Article about why Solar is such a threat to all US Utilities and especially SCE.
    I think of it as a Fiscal/Energy War for market share:

    Disruptive Challenges:

    Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business