Solar power in California
Solar power in California has been growing rapidly because of high insolation, community support, declining solar costs, and a Renewable Portfolio Standard which requires that 33% of California's electricity come from renewable resources by 2020, and 50% by 2030. Much of this is expected to come from solar power. At noon on July 12, 2016, California generated 8 GW of utility scale solar power and around 4 GW of behind-the-meter private solar power.
In 2014, utility-scale solar power in California generated 9.9 million megawatt-hours, more than double the amount generated in 2013, and more than five percent of total utility-scale electrical generation in the state. The American Solar Energy Industries Association reports that a further 19,200 MW of utility-scale solar projects are under construction or development in the state as of August 2014.
- 1 History
- 2 Photovoltaics
- 3 Solar thermal power
- 4 Public opinion
- 5 Renewable Portfolio Standard
- 6 Net metering
- 7 Permitting
- 8 Alameda County
- 9 City of Los Angeles
- 10 New homes
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Over the last 20 years, California has been home to a number of "world's largest" solar facilities. In 1991, the 354 MW solar thermal Solar Energy Generating Systems plant (located in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California) held the title until being bested by the 392 MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a concentrated solar thermal plant located in San Bernardino County near the Nevada border. In 2014, the 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm became the new "world's largest operational" solar facility went online in San Luis Obispo County, California. A second 550 MW facility by First Solar, Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, also went online in Riverside County in 2014. Both these were superseded, however, by the Solar Star photovoltaic project that went online with 579 MW in June 2015 in Antelope Valley, California (located in Los Angeles and Kern counties). While California hosts the three largest photovoltaic facilities in the world (as of July 2015), there are yet several proposals for even larger facilities seeking regulatory approval in California.
In 2011, California's goal to install 3,000 MW by 2016 was expanded to 12,000 MW by 2020 (and exceeded in 2015). 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). 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 128.9 GW of rooftop solar panels, which would generate 194,000 GWh/year, about 74% of the total electricity used in California in 2013. 128 GW, though, is three to four times as much electricity as is used, which requires that most of the noon output will need to be stored (for example by producing hydrogen) or exported on a sunny day.
- The Blythe Solar Power Project is a planned 485 MW photovoltaic power station to be located in Riverside County.
- The California Flats Solar Project is a planned 280 MW photovoltaic power station to be located in Monterey County.
- The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is a 550 MW solar power plant in Riverside County, that uses thin-film solar CdTe-modules made by First Solar. The plant was completed in December 2014.
- The Imperial Valley Solar Project is a 99 MW power station, located in Imperial County.
- The California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) is a 250 MW solar photovoltaic power plant, built by SunPower in the Carrizo Plain, northeast of California Valley.
- The Mount Signal Solar project was completed near the Mexican border in May 2014. The installed PV capacity of the solar farm amounts to 265.7 MW (206 MWAC).
- The 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County was completed in November 2014. It was the world’s largest PV power plant at the time.
Solar thermal power
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. 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 deploys 347,000 heliostat mirrors focusing solar energy on boilers located on centralized solar power towers.
The Genesis Solar Energy Project is an operational 250 MW solar thermal power station located in Riverside County, California. It features a parabolic trough design and is run by NextEra Energy Resources.
- The Solar Energy Generating Systems, is a 361 MW (was 394 MW until 2014) parabolic trough concentrated solar power station located in the Mojave Desert completed in 1990.
- The Genesis Solar Energy Project, is a 280 MW parabolic trough concentrated solar power station located in the Mojave Desert completed in 2013.
- The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, is a 392 MW solar power tower concentrated solar power station located in the Mojave Desert completed in 2014.
- The Mojave Solar Project, is a 280 MW parabolic trough concentrated solar power station located in the Mojave Desert completed in 2014.
Total operational installed gross power is 1,313 MW (1346 MW until 2014). Production in 2015 was 2,309 GWh, 71.2% of U.S. total solar thermal generation.
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 Energy 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 but later abandoned.
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.
As of July 2014, California had 7,808 MW of solar and 5,830 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 is 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. As part of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Million Solar Roofs Program, California has set a goal to create 1,940 megawatts of new, solar-produced electricity by 2016 — moving the state toward a cleaner energy future and helping lower the cost of solar systems for consumers. The California Solar Initiative has "a total budget of $2.167 billion between 2007 and 2016 and a goal to install approximately 1,940 MW of new solar generation capacity."  Many of the homes, schools and businesses which have installed solar panels can be monitored online on the Internet.
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 2016, 4,216 MW have been installed in 537,647 projects. The average cost of systems less than 10 kW is $5.33/watt and $4.38/watt for systems over 10 kW. Of these, 3,391 MW were rooftop solar in 2015.
The CSI initially offered cash incentives on solar PV systems of up to $2.50 per AC watt. These incentives, combined with federal tax incentives, could cover up to 50% of the total cost of a solar system. The incentive program was designed so that the incentives would reduce in steps based on the amount of solar installed in each of 6 categories. There are separate steps for residential and non-residential customers in the territories of each of the State's 3 investor-owned utilities. As of July 2012, the rebates range from $0.20 to $0.35 per AC watt for residential and commercial systems and from $0.70 to $1.10 for systems for non-profits and government entities.
There are many financial incentives to support the use of renewable energy in other US states. CSI provides more than $2 billion worth of incentives to customers for installing photovoltaic, and electricity displacing solar thermal systems in the three California Investor-Owned Utilities service territories.
- Decision (D.) 06-01-024, in collaboration with the California Energy Commission, with the goal of installing 3,000 MW of new solar facilities in California's homes and businesses by 2017.
- On August 21, 2006, the Governor signed SB1, which directs the CPUC and the CEC to implement the CSI program consistent with specific requirements and budget limits set forth in legislation.
Responsibility for administration of the CSI Program is shared by Investor-Owned Utilities:
- Pacific Gas and Electric Company – PG&E customers;
- Southern California Edison Company – SCE customers;
- California Center for Sustainable Energy – SDG&E customers.
Residential installation starts in early 2007 fell off sharply in SCE territory because of the disincentives inherent in SB1, requiring time-of-use (TOU) tariffs, with the result that homeowners who install panels may find their electric bill increasing rather than decreasing. The governor and legislature moved quickly to pass AB1714 (June 2007) to delay the implementation of this rule until 2009.
Utility-scale California solar electric generation according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA):
(% of CA total)
(% of USA Solar)
Figures include solar CSP generation, up to 2,309 GWh in 2015.
Note: Starting with 2014, the EIA began including state generation estimates for electricity produced from small-scale, distributed solar PV installations. These non-utility scale estimates project that, in 2014, California generated a further 3,862 GWh of solar electricity and in 2015, California generated an additional 5,139 GWh of solar electricity from such distributed PV systems.
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 was 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. California subsequently uncapped the net metering program. 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.
The California solar deployment has increased its duck curve (power demand for traditional power plants) to the point where large power plants are turned down to minimum during the day, while requiring large and fast power ramping by load following and peaker plants to supply peak demand in the evening when the sun has gone down. Several methods are being developed to cope with the change. Time-of-use pricing is being rolled out, and has been effective in Hawaii.
California governor Jerry Brown signed a streamlined permitting bill (AB 2188) for residential solar systems on September 22, 2014. AB 2188 has four major provisions designed to reduce red-tape associated with local solar permits and requires that, by the end of September 2015, all California cities and counties must "adopt an ordinance that creates an expedited, streamlined permitting process for residential rooftop solar energy systems of less than 10 kilowatts in size." Research and industry reports project the bill could reduce the cost of installing a typical residential solar system in the state by over $1,000.
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.
City of Los Angeles
The City of 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.
Since January 1, 2014 California law requires all new buildings less than ten stories tall be "solar ready".
In April 2016, San Francisco mandated that all new buildings less than ten stories tall include solar panels or solar water heating covering at least 15% of the roof, beginning January 1, 2017.
- Solar power plants in the Mojave Desert
- Solar power in the United States
- Renewable energy in the United States
- Solar Cookers International
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- Million Solar Roofs Initiative
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- 12,000 MW of Renewable Distributed Generation by 2020
- California Solar Photovoltaic Statistics & Data retrieved 01 March 2009
- Solar Market Trends
- Major Projects List
- Cost by Quarter
- Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential in the United States: A Detailed Assessment
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- "First Solar completes another half-gigawatt project in California". 15 January 2015.
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- 206MW Mt. Signal Solar Farm Completed, Energy Matters, May 22, 2014
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- The eBay of Electricity
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- Financial Incentives in the USA.
- CSI Handbook
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- 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
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- 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
- California poised to require 'solar ready roofs' on new homes and buildings
- San Francisco Becomes First Major U.S. City To Mandate Rooftop Solar In New Buildings
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Solar power in California.|
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- California Energy Commission
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- Clean Power Estimator (California only)
- California daily hourly power production
- Google Map of Operating and Under Construction California Utility Scale PV