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Amidst news reports of the permanent closure of SCE’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), an important milestone was largely overlooked: last week solar power produced over 2,000 Megawatts to the grid - nearly the equivalent of the now silenced SONGS.
Before it was shut down over safety concerns in January, 2012, SONGS was capable of producing 2,200 MW of power onto the grid, enough to power approximately 1.4 million Southern California homes. When the plant was taken offline, it created a large gap in the energy mix for the region and an old, gas-fired power plant in Huntington Beach was brought online to support the region - adding conventional air pollution and expanded CO2 emissions along with it.
What a difference a year makes. From the press release issued the same day that SCE was announcing its decision, the California Independent System Operator (CALISO) reported that solar power peaked at 2,071 MW at 12:59 p.m. and noted:
“This new record is remarkable considering the amount has more than doubled since last September when solar peaked at 1,000 megawatts,” says Steve Berberich, California ISO President and CEO. “We are excited by this trend and expect to hit more record peaks on a regular basis.”
Remarkable indeed - doubling solar power production in under a year. And keep in mind that these are the solar resources administered by the ISO - that is, utility scale solar power plants. Not reported in that peak production is all of the rooftop solar around the state, helping to hold down power demands while simultaneously lowering customers’ bills.
Thanks in large part to the addition of more renewable sources, along with improved transmission infrastructure, the Huntington Beach facility is not expected to have to burn fuel this summer to stabilize the grid. (H/t, Devra Wang at NRDC.)