California Sets Solar Power Record

According to the US Energy Information Administration, California led the nation in new solar power capacity in 2014. The latest data shows it was the first state to get more than 5% of its annual electricity generation from large-scale solar projects producing more than one megawatt of power. That’s a new solar power record for US states. It’s more than its sun-drenched neighbor, Arizona, and more than all the other states combined.

Utility scale solar farms helped California set a solar power record by deriving 5% of its electrical energy from the sun in 2014Think Progress says California added 3,550 MW of new solar in 2014, more than half of it from utility-scale projects.  That’s according to a recent report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Contrast that to the total of 6,200 MW for the entire US combined.

California benefited from two 550 MW solar installations, Topaz and Desert Sunlight, that came online last year. In addition, two solar thermal plants, the 377 MW Ivanpah and the 250 MW Genesis, added their power to the grid.

The increase in solar power comes at a critical time for the Golden State. Its traditional dependence on hydroelectric power took a hit from ongoing drought conditions. Energy from hydro was slashed almost in half in 2014. There are no signs the drought is going to ease any time soon. California got 22% of its electricity from non-hydropower renewables in 2014. For the first time ever, wind power surpassed hydro power in California during February and March of last year.

The state has set a goal of getting 33% of its power from renewable sources by 2020, but governor Jerry Brown is already looking beyond this target. The governor said recently he wants California to use 50% renewable energy by 2030.

Nationally, about 1/3 of all new electricity capacity came from solar in 2014. Natural gas led all sources and accounted for 42% of new capacity. Wind accounted for 23% of the mix and coal came in with less than 1%.

Solar Power By State 2013 - 2014 via US Energy Information Agency

Photo Credit: Walmart

Chart Credit: US Energy Information Agency.

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writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.