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Sierra Daily

Sep 11, 2012

California Hits Solar Milestone

Solar use Cal-ISO_aug14-3On August 14, California utilities produced more than 1 gigawatt of solar power, setting a national record. And according to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which runs the state’s grid, that milestone of 1003 megawatts has been surpassed several times since then. According to the blog EarthTechling, a gigawatt is enough juice to power more than 750,000 homes.

A gigawatt of solar power is worth celebrating, and worth keeping in perspective. That August day, solar power provided 8,843 megawatt-hours of electricity to California’s grid. That’s out of more than 869,260 megawatt-hours consumed that day, or just one percent of the total. (Wind supplied 3.7 percent of the state’s electricity demand that day.)

But see it as a solar glass 1/100th full: EarthTechling notes that two years ago, solar supplied only 60 percent of what it did this August, and that utility-scale solar plants continue to come on line in California. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, U.S. solar-panel installations more than doubled in the second quarter of 2012 from a year earlier. California led the demand, installing 217 megawatts of capacity.

And since the California ISO just looks at “wholesale” electricity, its figures don’t include the more than 1.2 gigawatts of customer-owned solar power being generated in the state.

Image from California ISO.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra.  He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term.  For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s  Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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