Solar Outshines Wind and Hydro as California’s Top Renewable Source

California Solar Diablo Canyon
Ryan Pollin for Zondits, January 15, 2016. Image credit: Jeremy Levine

Utility-scale solar has been growing like a weed in California, and their latest milestones are in the CA Independent System Operator’s 2015 year-end figures. More energy was provided by solar than by wind sources in the state (a first) or by hydroelectricity (also a first). The growth, as you can see in this figure, is stunning. In 2012 solar provided 0.9%, and 3 years later it grew to 6.7%. The latest estimates show solar capacity at about 7.6 GW for utility PV and concentrating solar.

Solar outshines wind

Here’s the kicker: None of this data includes residential solar in the state, which is growing at a similarly staggering rate.

The increases in solar are offset in reductions from fossil burners and imported energy, as well as some losses in hydro due to the ongoing drought.


Solar Surges Past Wind, Hydro as California’s No. 1 Renewable Energy Source

KQED News, January 11, 2016

Data compiled from daily reports by the state’s major grid manager indicate that in 2015, solar became the No. 1 source of renewable energy in California. Not only did solar beat wind power for the first time, but it also topped drought-depleted hydropower, the long-standing leader in California electricity generation outside fossil fuels and nuclear.

The California Independent System Operator doesn’t cover the entire state, but it does manage about 80 percent of the California grid, including those portions served by PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, the state’s three big investor-owned utilities.

The reports in sum show that in 2015, utility-scale solar power plants produced 15,591,964 megawatt-hours of electricity for CAISO. That’s 6.7 percent of the system’s total of 231,965,326 MWh. Wind came in at 5.3 percent. Hydro contributed 5.9 percent, with the portion that the state considers renewable, “small hydro,” at 0.6 percent of generation.

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