Solar usage continues to soar in California

California continues to set new records in solar energy usage.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees operation of the state’s electric power system, transmission lines and the electricity market, reached a record peak of 4,143 MW on March 16. The surge in solar usage was due primarily to new capacity that has recently come online, according to a recent report by Greentech Media.

The more than 4.1 GW was nearly double the 2,071 MW record set in June 2013. BrightSource Energy’s 392 MW Ivanpah CSP project as well as the 1,900-plus MW of new utility-scale PV installed last year.

CAISO oversees more than 5.2 GW of installed solar capacity. Both this figure and the record production do not include the nearly 1.1 GW of solar capacity in the state, according to the report.

Greentech Media notes that the California’s new records are being set at such speed that CAISO has decided to change its policy regarding announcements. The grid operator will now only announce 500 MW advances of the record instead of the 50 MW increments it has regularly announced.

CAISO Senior Public Information Officer Steven Greenlee told Greentech Media that the grid operator was aggressively preparing for the increase in renewables-generated electricity that will come from state’s mandated requirement on utilities to obtain 33% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. Greenlee said CAISO was on track with planning efforts to make sure the transmission network is ready to carry increased power from renewable resources as well as reforming interconnection studies and transmission planning processes to give renewable developers more certainty.

Greenlee added that CAISO’s current operation shows that it could call on various renewable resources throughout the day to get 88,525 megawatt-hours of the state’s 535,556 megawatt-hours of total 24-hour system demand from renewables.

That’s more than 16.5% of California’s total March 16 demand, demonstrating that the state’s electricity transmission system is ready to handle the rapidly increasing levels of renewable energy, Greenlee said.