California Breaks Solar Record, Generates Enough Electricity for 6 Million Homes
California has hit a new solar generation record, thanks to this week's triple-digit heat wave. SF Gate calculated that on Tuesday, the Golden State's solar power plants briefly generated enough electricity for more than 6 million homes.
figures from California's Independent Solar Operators Corporation (ISO) which operates most of the state's grid, a whopping 8,030 megawatts of large-scale solar power was generated at 1:06 p.m. on July 12, nearly doubling the amount of solar energy produced in mid-2014 and nearly 2,000 megawatts higher than in May 2015.
"This solar production record demonstrates that California is making significant strides forward in connecting low carbon resources to the grid in meeting the state's goal of reaching 33 percent renewables by 2020," ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich said. "California continues to lead the nation in adding clean resources to the system and writing a playbook for operating a low carbon grid."
The ISO noted that at peak electricity demand on Tuesday at 5:54 p.m., almost 29 percent of electricity needs were met by the state's vast renewable energy portfolio that includes solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, small hydro-electricity and energy storage.
Renewables have incredible potential for the state as evidenced this past May 14 and 15, when renewables fulfilled an impressive 54 percent and 56 percent of demand, respectively.
#ISO #solar generation sets new record at 8,030 MW. #CleanEnergy https://t.co/7LiaJCUlhI— California ISO (@California ISO)1468540622.0
When it comes to solar energy, the sun-spoiled state is head and shoulders above the rest. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has consistently ranked California as the nation's top solar state, and reported in April that California has more solar jobs and installed more megawatts of solar capacity last year than any other U.S. state. Its 13,241 megawatts of cumulative installed solar capacity is capable of powering an estimated 3.32 million homes.
And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, "for both utility-scale solar PV and solar thermal, California has more capacity than the rest of the country combined, with 52 percent and 73 percent of the nation's total, respectively. "
"Solar power generation is just growing astronomically, and it is less expensive," Anne Gonzales, an ISO spokeswoman told the Sacramento Business Journal. Indeed, solar costs and prices are continuing to drop as solar installations soar.
However, there have been some roadblocks. The Ivanpah plant in California's Mojave Desert—a 392 megawatt concentrated solar power tower and one of the world's largest solar plants—famously caught on fire in May. Forbes also pointed out that on especially sunny days, "the state's energy sources (nuclear, gas, renewables) produce more energy than it needs, which has resulted in the grid operator telling solar farms to shut down." Officials are now looking into connecting with nearby states to share excess energy, Forbes said.
Still, this shining week proves that California is making incredible strides towards its ambitious renewable energy goals of 33 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2030.
Last year, on the day Gov. Jerry Brown was sworn in for his fourth term in office, he boasted that California has "the most far-reaching environmental laws of any state and the most integrated policy to deal with climate change of any political jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere."
Brown listed a multi-pronged approach to achieving the state's renewable energy targets, including more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, full integration of information technology and electrical distribution, and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.
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By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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