On September 29, at 2:18 PM, the Golden State generated 4,903 megawatts of utility-scale solar power – beating its previous record from March of this year by a full 800 MW.
Thanks to the declining costs of solar technology as well as some of the most progressive energy policies in the U.S.A., Californians can now boast the same level of solar penetration as an average western European country. According to Utility Dive, California now ranks above France and the UK in terms of solar capacity, though still below Italy and Germany, which currently leads the world in solar development.
The 4.9 gigawatts of solar reported by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) represents only utility-scale solar power generated from photovoltaics arrays (PV) and concentrating solar power technology (CSP). PV is the more common form of solar that uses semiconductors to turn light directly into energy, whereas CSP refers to plants that generate steam power by concentrating the sun’s rays onto massive water towers (such as on the Ivanpah plant located in the Mojave desert).
This means that California is actually generating even more solar power via rooftop panels and other small-scale operations. According to PV Magazine,
“As the California Independent System Operator (ISO) only measures the output of utility-scale PV and CSP generation, this number is still short of the state’s full solar output. According to GTM Research and SEIA’s Solar Market Insight report California had another 2.8 GW of behind-the-meter PV at the end of the second quarter of 2014.”
In other words, the sun’s doing pretty good business in California. Who knew?