California's utility-scale solar generation hits new peak of 4.8 GW

The California grid hit a new peak generation record for utility-scale solar PV and CSP of 4.813 GW at 12:03 PM on August 15, according to data released by the California Independent System Operator (ISO).

Peak utility-scale solar generation had come near 4.8 GW on at least three other occasions this summer: On August 8th, July 22nd, and June 1st.

These figures do not represent the full contributions of solar PV, as the California ISO does not include “behind the meter” distributed solar in its figures. According to Greentech Media, California had another 2.6 GW of distributed solar at the end of the first quarter of 2014.

Based on the 4.813 GW figure, PV and CSP peaked at around 14% of demand. If the state’s distributed solar resources were counted, this number would be higher.

These records come as the latest analysis by renewable energy consultant Bernard Chabot shows the contributions of utility-scale PV and CSP declining in late summer, with lower output coinciding with higher electricity demand, leading to higher levels of fossil fuel generation.

Utility-scale PV and CSP met 5.1% of California’s electricity demand during July 2014, down from 6.4% in June. “Solar production was less stable in July compared to June, particularly for solar thermal production,” notes Chabot. Including large hydroelectric projects, renewables met 23% of electricity demand during July, down from 29% during June.

Bernard Chabot’s full analysis of California renewable energy output in July can be downloaded here.