On Wednesday, February 16, 2016, utility solar generation in California hit a new record of 6,486 MW, according to California ISO. Utility generation surpassed that again on Monday, February 22, 2016, when output reached 6,551 MW in the state.
Part of this record-breaking trend is being driven by environmental conditions, including sun angle, longer days, higher temperatures, etc., and it is expected to continue through Summer 2016 in CAISO. When considering the combined effects of sun angle and weather variables, solar generation in the state should peak in the June/July timeframe. Genscape and Locus expect that California utility output will hit 7,500 MW by July, and that the peak in generation may be pushed out into the late-August/September timeframe when taking increased build-outs into account.
The largest solar builds tend to happen during calendar Q1, when companies are attempting to get ahead of peak demand times and get the most out of the year, and Q4, when they are trying to capitalize on tax incentives and benefits before the close of the year.
When solar generation hits such high levels, especially during peak load times, the uneven distribution between the northern and southern regions of the state leads to low overall energy prices and can result in congestion crushing prices, especially in the south. The added impact of wind generation in the late spring and early summer, when wind capacity factors are at their highest, can even contribute to negative real-time energy prices. Additionally, large increases in solar, especially this time of year, pushes other distribution, usually thermal, out of the supply stack.
Locus Energy, a Genscape company, monitors 792 MW of solar generation in California, across the residential, commercial, industrial, and utility sectors. In addition to this, Genscape monitors 2,720 MW of utility-scale solar generation that reaches the CAISO grid. Rooftop solar, including residential, commercial, and industrial, also eats into demand. The low load that was seen on Sunday, February 21 was independent of the strong solar generation that was seen at the utility level.
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