California’s solar sector has been on fire. But after a building sprint that saw its share of solar rise from 0.5% of generation in 2010 to 10% last year, the state may be taking a break following two new production records this month.
Solar served up an unprecedented 50% of the state’s demand on a sunny day around 1pm PT on March 5. The next day, utility operators reported a second record for total generation from solar which produced 10,411 megawatts, beating out last year’s record by 5%. The state is regularly shunting electricity to Arizona and other states (sometimes paying them to do so) to avoid overloading its own power lines.
Greentech Media reports there’s little prospect of big new purchases of solar, or other renewable energy sources for that matter, by utilities. With investor-owned utilities all well ahead of state targets of 25% renewables by 2020 (and more distributed generation coming online), no new renewable capacity was procured last year and no plans to contract more (although plenty is in the pipeline, and homes and businesses are still adding more). “They’re basically saying, ‘There’s too much going on; we don’t know what to do, so we’re not going to do anything for a while,'” Jan Smutny-Jones of the Independent Energy Producers Association told Greentech.
Things on the home front are slowing down as well, although for different reasons. The US residential rooftop solar market, after at least 16 consecutive years of growth, shrank slightly in 2017, reports Bloomberg. The main reason was that Tesla, recent acquirer of SolarCity, cut its marketing spending to concentrate on profitability instead of growth, ceding the top spot to US residential solar installer Sunrun. But the residential industry is not going away, with an estimated 2,500 MW installed last year, much of it in California. Analysts expect expansion to continue in emerging markets Utah, Texas, South Carolina and Florida
One thing could tip California’s solar market back into a furious growth period: a new target. With the mandate to generate half the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 now easily within reach (renewables accounted for 27% of total generation last year), the California state Senate has proposed legislation to require 100% of the state’s power come from renewable sources by 2045.