California solar + wind record high at 49.2%, renewable electricity peaks above 56%

Solar power in California started setting production records on February 24th – production peaks have continued to occur since then. On Thursday of last week renewables broke 56% of total demand. This record is partially the result of a national 2016 installation boom of greater than 14GW of solar power that California took 35% of.

According to the daily report on March 23rd, solar peaked around 11.16 AM – three minutes before the solar + wind peak of 49.2% and nine minutes before renewables peaked 56.7%.

Renewable’s produced 186GWh on the 23rd – 33% of the day’s 563GWh electricity usage. Solar power will continue to add 2+GW/year to California’s electricity grid. This heavy volume of growth is causing strain on the system – solar power will be curtailed in heavy amounts this spring, with this having already begun in February. Other major renewable countries have had challenges as they’ve grown – most recently large amounts of wind power in China had to be curtailed.

California ISO notes they might have to curtail 6,000-8,000MW of electricity. If they were speaking in total production at a peak moment, that would represent 73-98% of last Thursday’s solar peak. If that peak were to run for an hour – it would fill 75-100 of the 80MWh Tesla PowerPack stations installed for Southern California Edison. Last year the USA installed 336MWh of energy storage – 23 times the amount of solar that might be curtailed.

US Department of Energy wants the nations electricity grid to be able to handle 100% mid-day peak solar power, California will give them a local testing ground – but the Danish at 114% will give them a true research subject.

Renewable electricity production peaks as part of electricity usage are occurring more often – and these days they’re happening in ‘bigger places.’ Wind power provided 20% of Europe’s electricity on March 19th, and the Midwest USA popped above 50% demand from wind.

A plethora of energy storage solutions are being tested to help deal with these peak demand moments. The lithium-ion dream is being led by the Tesla Gigafactory 1 – BYD is also working on its own products in the segment and is an experienced company who was backed by Warren Buffet long ago. There are many groups investing across Europe – in various reports I’ve seen up to 20 “Gigafactories” (over 1 GWh) being built globally by the early-mid 2020’s.

If curtailment continues into the future – it would seem to make sense for energy storage companies to offer to hold onto the energy for a certain fee. In other places – excess electricity has led to electricity users getting paid to consume.

Header image – National Geographic thought wind mills were among the ten most breathtaking landscapes – ‘Windmills stand tall in the wine fields of Burgenland.’ – Edelstal, Austria, Photograph by Matej Kova. Windmills. Beauty. Say it out loud.

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