According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, total solar production in California grew from less than 1 gigawatt in 2007 to nearly 14 gigawatts by the end of 2016. By the end of 2015, the EIA found that California’s utility-scale solar energy production accounted for 52% of the entire nation’s production. That’s no doubt even higher today.
This growth is due in part to the rising number of utility-scale solar power generators that are being installed in California. 2016 alone saw an increase of almost 50% over the previous year.As a result, in early March of this year, for the first time ever, solar energy was supplying as much as 40-50% of all California’s power needs.
In fact, California’s solar energy producers are producing so much energy from the sun that the wholesale energy prices utilities pay for that energy actually turned negative for a few hours in mid-March. That contrasts with the same period between 2013-15, when wholesale prices ranged from $14-45 MWh.
That’s good news for California energy consumers, who currently pay among the highest energy prices in the country. But it’s less great for the solar energy producers themselves; negative prices mean they have to pay utilities to take their energy.
Assuming growth continues at this pace, solar energy producers may have to rethink the energy process from renewable sources. Right now, it’s less expensive for them to pay
Todd Beeton is a digital strategist living in New York City, specializing in the use of social media tools for digital storytelling. During the 2008 election, Todd blogged about the presidential election as a front page blogger and editor for MyDD.com, a national progressive political site. For the last several years, Todd was proud to serve as digital director for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, directing her social media content and strategy over four election cycles.