Troubles with Effective Solar Energy


Last updated 4/12/2016 at 9:41am

San Diego’s ‘Climate Action Plan’ is to be released this month with the aim of becoming a national leader and the most aggressive in the nation, by switching to entirely clean energy by 2035. With the removal of fossil fuels, energy companies will be looking at the most abundant natural resource available to Californians across the state – Solar.

Although already utilized by many households and corporations as an alternative means of energy, the success of Solar has created its own problems.

At its Folsom headquarters, the California Independent System Operator, a team continually manages the power supply for some 30 million people across the state. Monitoring the flow of energy required in the spring and fall, when Californians aren’t using much air conditioning and demand for electricity is low, produces a surge of midday Solar power, more than the state can use, compared to more active winter months and it is becoming a growing concern.

The imbalance is becoming a growing state challenge and on March 27, Solar farms were told to shut down because they were producing more electricity than needed. “That’s zero-carbon, clean energy,” says Keith Casey, a vice president at the California Independent System Operator. “It would just be a travesty to curtail large amounts of it.”

Casey says the problem will only get worse as plans to hit 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 get closer and more Solar and wind connect to the grid.

One obvious solution that is raising controversy across state lines is to join up with neighboring states. When California produces too much Solar power, neighboring states buy it, preventing California from having to switch off their Solar farms. This could mean customers across both regions would save $154 to $335 million annually through sharing lower-cost renewable energy according to a study commissioned by PacifiCorp.

Although California’s grid currently runs, mostly, independently there are power lines reaching across the West.

“You’re operating your little piece of the system,” Casey says, “but if you can operate it as an integrated whole, you can just operate the system more efficiently.”

“It’s a win-win,” Casey continues. “We really think we need to seize the most efficient opportunities that are out there for integrating renewables.”

The issue and the story is to be continued.


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