The state of California has achieved a new electricity generation peak record for utility-scale solar energy, according to recent reports. The new record of 6.391 gigawatts (alternating current, not direct current) was achieved on August 20, 2015, according to California’s grid operator. This figure refers to both utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects and concentrating solar power (CSP) projects.
While the 6.391 GW figure includes both utility-scale solar PV and CSP projects, it doesn’t include the output of distributed solar energy system output (so-called “behind-the-meter” electricity generation). GTM Research has previously estimated a figure of 3.2 GW of total distributed solar system capacity in California for Quarter 1, 2015 — so, assuming that’s correct, and that peak generation sometimes approaches peak capacity for distributed, then the total peak figure could actually be as much as 50% higher.
The recent peak figure follows earlier records of 6.299 GW and 6.16 GW; set on July 13 and June 7, respectively, as well as numerous new records set over the last month and a half. These new records follow a fairly rapid solar energy buildout in recent days, as part of the state’s renewable energy growth goals.
As the goals of the incumbent governor (Governor Jerry Brown) call for the Pacific state to receive at least 50% of its electricity via renewable energy resources by the year 2030, the constant flow of new records are encouraging.
With regard to the recent record on August 20, the state’s grid operator noted that, while solar and wind energy generation shifted the peak in the net load by a few hours, this rise was relatively smooth, with wind energy output rising as solar energy generation faded.