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California Sets Record for Winter Solar Power Generation

Dec 21, 2012
Source: 
(ReWire)

In August ReWire touted the state's passing of the gigawatt solar production record, where the state's grid operators reported a record 1,029 megawatts of solar electricity entering the grid. And now we can report a record slightly more subtle but every bit as important: the state got pretty close to that record-setting August mark on the week of the Winter Solstice, the least-sunny time of year.

On Wednesday, December 19, the CaISO's preliminary figures for renewable energy output, which are displayed in the chart at the top of this post, indicated that for Wednesday's solar output reached a peak somewhere between 950 and 1,000 megawatts at around 10:30 a.m., and held there until just after 1:00 p.m.

In terms of actual power delivered, that's not a huge amount. What makes Wednesday's figures notable is that they happened the week of the Winter Solstice, when the sun is lower in the sky than at any other time of the year. The sun being lower in the sky means less solar energy hitting California, meaning less output from solar panels. At the latitude of Los Angeles, sunshine hitting solar panels on the winter solstice can deliver something like half the energy it does during summer, and less sunlight hitting solar panels means less electrical power generated. And the seasonal drop-off is even starker north of Los Angeles.