Solar power in California
Solar power in California has been growing rapidly because of high insolation, community support, and a Renewable Portfolio Standard which requires that 20% of California's electricity come from renewable resources by 2010, and 33% by 2020. Much of this is expected to come from solar power. As of the end of 2011, California had 364 MW of concentrated solar power and 1,564 MW of photovoltaics.
The largest solar power installation in the world is the 354 MW solar thermal SEGS plant, completed in 1991. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (392 MW), located 40 miles (60 km) southwest of Las Vegas, is the world's largest solar thermal power project currently under construction.
California leads the nation in the total number of homes which have solar panels installed. Many were installed because of the million solar roof initiative. In 2008, the state decided that it was not moving forward fast enough on photovoltaic generation and enacted a feed-in tariff. A feed-in tariff is both the least expensive and the most effective means of increasing solar usage. It is similar to a power purchase agreement, but at a much higher rate. As the industry matures, the tariff is reduced to the retail rate and becomes the same as a power purchase agreement. A feed-in tariff allows investors a guaranteed return on investment - a requirement for development.
Solar thermal power
The largest solar power installation in the world is the 354 MW solar thermal SEGS plant, completed in 1991. From 1985 until 2010 more than half of all the electricity generated each year by solar power in the United States came from the SEGS plant.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (392 MW), located 40 miles (60 km) southwest of Las Vegas, is the world's largest solar thermal power project currently under construction. The project is developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel. The project has received a $1.375 billion loan guarantee from the United States Department of Energy. It will deploy 347,000 heliostat mirrors focusing solar energy on boilers located on centralized solar power towers.
The Blythe Solar Power Project is a proposed 968 MW solar thermal power station to be located in Riverside County, California. It will be of parabolic trough design, and the companies involved are Solar Millennium and Chevron.
The Calico Solar Energy Project is a proposed 850 MW solar thermal power station to be located in San Bernardino County, California. It will be of stirling engine design and the company involved is Tessera Solar.
The Imperial Valley Solar Project (formerly SES Solar Two) is a proposed 709 MW solar thermal power station to be located in Imperial County, California. It will be of stirling engine design and the company involved is Tessera Solar.
The Genesis Solar Energy Project is a proposed 250 MW solar thermal power station to be located in Riverside County, California. It will be of parabolic trough design, and the company involved is NextEra Energy Resources.
In 2011, California's goal to install 3,000 MW by 2016 was expanded to 12,000 MW by 2020. California has more photovoltaics installed than any other state, and 48% of the total in 2010. For the first time in 2008 the installed photovoltaics exceeded the state's 354 MW of solar thermal (CSP). While most of the installed photovoltaics is on rooftops in 2012, the 57.7 MW Avenal Solar Facility is California's largest operating photovoltaic power plant, and there are plans to build over 15,000 MW of utility scale photovoltaic plants in California. At the end of 2012, small systems of less than 10 kWp were averaging $5.39/W, and large systems of over 500 kWp were averaging $2.77/W.
California has the technical potential to install 76,000 MW of rooftop solar panels, which would generate 106,411 GWh/year, about 41% of the total electricity used in California in 2012. 76 GW, though, is twice as much electricity that is used in one hour, which will require that on a sunny day, half of the noon output will need to be stored, for example by producing hydrogen.
The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is a 550 MW solar power plant under construction in Riverside County, California, that will use thin-film solar photovoltaic modules made by First Solar. The Topaz Solar Farm is a 550 MW photovoltaic power plant, being built in San Luis Obispo County, California. The Blythe Solar Power Project is a 500 MW photovoltaic power station under construction in Riverside County, California. The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is a 392 MW solar thermal power facility which is under construction in south-eastern California. The California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) is a 250 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic power plant, which is being built by SunPower in the Carrizo Plain, northeast of California Valley.
2012 priority projects
In 2012, the Bureau of Land Management is giving priority status to 5 solar project proposals in California. The 750 MW McCoy Solar Project has been proposed by NextEra. The 100 MW Desert Harvest project has been proposed by enXco. The 664 MW Calico Solar Energy Project has been redesigned by K Power. The 600 MW Mount Signal Solar Farm #1 has also been proposed.
The majority of Californians in desert country support large-scale solar development, according to a 2012 survey conducted on behalf of BrightSource Energy. The survey of more than 1,000 people was conducted throughout Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Riverside, San Bernardino counties in California, where many utility-scale solar projects are underway or planned. Survey results showed that nearly four out of five (almost 80 percent) of people strongly supported development of solar power in their communities. The survey also found that the majority of people were concerned with climate change. It also found that two-thirds of respondents think renewable energy is important to California’s future and that the state and federal government should help provide incentives for renewable energy projects.
Renewable Portfolio Standard
Solar power in California has been growing rapidly, because of a Renewable Portfolio Standard which requires that 20% of California's electricity come from renewable resources by 2010, and 33% by 2020. Much of this is expected to come from solar power.
According to a recent report by the California Public Utilities Commission, California failed to meet the 20% renewables by 2010 target. Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison were the closest to meeting the goal. PG&E generated 17.7% of the electricity it sold in 2010 from renewable sources while SCE was the closest to hitting the RPS goal by producing 19.4% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2010. San Diego Gas & Electric, on the other hand, generated only 11.9% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2010.
At the end of 2011, California had 1,928 MW of solar and 3,927 MW of wind farms. California adopted feed-in tariffs, a tool similar to what Europe has been using, to encourage the solar power industry. Proposals were raised aiming to create a small-scale solar market in California that brings the benefits of the German market, such as distributed generation, which avoids the need for transmission because power is generated close to where it's used, and avoid the drawbacks such as excessively high payments that could become a burden on utility customers.
California Solar Initiative
The California Solar Initiative is a 2006 initiative to install 3,000 MW of additional solar power by 2016. Included in it is the million solar roof initiative. In 2011, this goal was expanded to 12,000 MW by 2020.
According to the CPUC, homeowners, businesses, and local governments installed 158 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2008, doubling the 78 MW installed in 2007, giving California a cumulative total of 441 MW of distributed solar PV systems, the highest in the country. As of August 29, 2012, 1,294 MW have been installed in 123,415 projects. The average cost of systems <10 kW is $7.25/watt and $6.34/watt for systems over 10 kW.
Many of the homes, schools and businesses which have installed solar panels can be monitored online on the Internet.
California has a favorable net metering law, being one of five states to receive an A in 2007, while five states received an F, in an evaluation of the 38 states plus Washington D.C. with net metering. IREC best practices, based on experience, recommends no limits to net metering, individual or aggregate, and perpetual roll over of kWh credits. As California is rapidly approaching the 5% aggregate limit, a May 24, 2012 ruling by the CPUC clarified the calculation of the limit, and requested a report on the cost of net metering. Typically states have raised or eliminated their aggregate limits before they were reached. By 2011, 16 states including California received an A for net metering.
Using a 20-year property assessment known as PACE financing, Berkeley had a successful pilot program from 2008 to 2009 as the first city in the country to allow residents to obtain solar power without any initial payment. In the plan, property owners paid as much in increased property taxes as they save in energy costs, allowing them to install the panels for free at no cost to the city. Thirty eight projects are being installed for the pilot stage of the program. PACE financing has spread to 28 states, but is on hold in many due to objections by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, including in Berkeley (which has not continued the pilot as a result). Legislation has been introduced to require acceptance of PACE financing.
Los Angeles County
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power initiated a program on January 11, 2013 to pay up to 17 cents/kWh for electricity generated by up to 100 MW of solar power in a feed-in tariff program. 20 MW is reserved for small projects of less than 150 kW each. The program could be expanded to 150 MW in March.
|Tier||Available||Small systems||Feed in tariff|
|1||10 MW||2 MW||17 cents/kWh|
|2||25 MW||5 MW||16 cents/kWh|
|3||50 MW||10 MW||15 cents/kWh|
|4||75 MW||15 MW||14 cents/kWh|
|5||100 MW||20 MW||13 cents/kWh|
In March 2013, Lancaster California became the first U.S. city to mandate the inclusion of solar panels on new homes, requiring that "every new housing development must average 1 kilowatt per house."
In May 2013, Sebastopol followed suit, requiring new buildings include either 2 W/sq ft (21.7 W/m2) of insulated building space of photovoltaics, or enough to provide 75% of the expected annual electricity use.
- Million Solar Roofs Initiative
- Are Feed-in Tariffs a Possibility in California?
- California Approves Feed-In Tariffs, Rewards Energy Efficiency
- The U.S. Needs a Feed-in Tariff
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- Major Projects List
- Cost by Quarter
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- The California Solar Initiative
- The eBay of Electricity
- CPUC Press Release
- California Solar Statistics
- Live monitoring
- Report: States Falling Short on Interconnection and Net Metering
- Net Metering and Interconnection Procedures Incorporating Best Practices
- CPUC unanimously approves net metering expansion in California
- Decision Regarding Calculation of the Net Energy Metering Cap
- 2011 Updates and Trends
- Freeing the Grid
- Berkeley FIRST retrieved 4 February 2009
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing (PACE)
- Los Angeles DWP unveils solar power buyback program
- Solar Feed-in Tariff (FiT) Program
- "Lancaster, CA, Becomes First US City to Require Solar". Greentech Media. March 27, 2013.
- California town of Sebastopol will require solar panels on all new homes
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Solar power in California|
- Go Solar California
- California Energy Commission
- California Solar Energy Industries Association
- Northern California Solar Energy Association
- Solar California
- Renewables Portfolio Standard
- California's Renewable Energy Law Lives!
- Clean Power Estimator (California only)