Renewables Set New Records

on August 19, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Q-Cells Opens New Solar Energy Research Center

Records that would have been considered ambitious no longer are 

On 1 June 2014, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) recorded a midday hourly peak of 4,767 MW of utility-generated solar electricity delivered into the California grid, a new record. That, however, does not include small-scale PVs on customer’s roofs – which are growing at a rapid clip.

Last year California installed 2,145 MW of utility-scale solar capacity, which represents more than 75% of US utility-scale solar capacity in 2013. Solar generation in May 2014 amounted to 6% of the total CAISO electricity load that month, compared with 2% in May 2013. What is more stunning is that between 11:00 a.m. and noon when solar output peaks solar supplied 14% of total power on the grid for the month of May 2014, compared with 6% in May 2013. Such records are likely to be broken in successive months as more solar generation comes on line by 2020 to meet the state’s 33% new renewable target.

California Duck

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Duck curve illustrates steep ramping needs and expected over-generation, representing net load on 31 March 2013 with projections to 2020

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), California added roughly 700 MW of residential and commercial solar PV capacity in 2013. Customer-scale solar PVs, which are rapidly rising, do not get reported or recorded by CAISO, since it is on customer side of the meter.

The result of so much solar generated power is that the historical mid-day peak has all but disappeared, especially during sunny months of the year. Over time, the rise of solar generation is leading to over-generation during mid-day, depressing wholesale prices and making the grid operator’s job more complicated, the famous California duck curve shown on top of page.

Wind 4% of US generation & counting: U.S. wind power capacity installations by state, 4Q 2013, in MW

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Source: Outlook for renewable energy in America, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), 2014

Not to be outdone by California, at 8:48 pm on 26 March 2014, Texas set a new record for wind capacity when 10,296 MW of wind generation was feeding the grid. It was enough to meet 29% of the grid’s generation needs at the time of the record.

Texas has over 12 GW of installed wind capacity (map on page 15), but not all of turbines are running nor are the winds always blowing when you need the output. The new record beats the 2013 peak capacity of 9,674 MW.

Germany’s green revolution: The result of a renewables subsidy scheme without a cap

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Source: CPUC Thought Leaders Session, 5 June 2014

Germany, of course, continues to move ahead on its Energiwende or energy turnaround. It was reported that due to record production from solar and wind power, renewables accounted for over 31% of Germany’s electricity generation in the first half of 2014, also a new record.

Renewable capacity factors respectable: Average Capacity Factors for Plants Entering Service in 2018

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Source: Outlook for renewable energy in America, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), 2014

According to Renewables International, a trade publication, solar generation grew by 28% in the first half of 2014 compared to 2013 and wind by 19% over the same period last year. Solar and wind alone made up 17% of power generation, up from around 12% in 2013. No wonder thermal generators are looking for some form of capacity payment scheme – just to stay in business (article on capacity on page 11).

While some renewables, wind and solar in particular, are intermittent by nature, their capacity factors have gradually improved over time. As reported in Outlook for renewable energy in America, a 2014 report by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), even wind and solar technologies are expected to reach respectable levels by 2018 (graph above left), while geothermal and biomass plants operate as base load.

Published Originally in EEnergy Informer The International Energy Newsletter August 2014 Issue.