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Where the Sun Don't (Temporarily) Shine
Some quick back of the napkin math.
“California is in the lead and can show the rest of the nation how it is done.
I love the fact that California is unabashedly bold about energy policy … I think it’s uh, you know the the canary in the coal mine.”
“No rolling blackouts in CA, despite epic heat wave. Fox News will have to save its schadenfreude for another time.
A key reason CA avoided rolling blackouts: Our huge investment in clean energy storage, to the tune of 3,300 mw.
Clean energy helped save the day. It's the future. “
Imperial County for is the southeastern most county in the state known for its rich agriculture, lithium mining potential, the Salton Sea, and is ground zero for dozens of California’s industrial solar plants.
Just how much solar does this area have?
The Imperial County Government have prepared two maps with the entire county’s solar plants, their acreage, and nameplate capacity.
Summing up the figures those maps, the total solar nameplate capacity1 in that county is approximately 3900 MW using a total of 25,900 acres or 40.5 square miles! According to the CA Energy Commission, the state’s total installed industrial solar nameplate capacity in 2021 is about 15,206 MW.
In other words, Imperial County alone consists of roughly 1/4 of CA’s total in-state industrial solar nameplate capacity.
That brings us to yesterday, the 8th.
On the charts2, I added the same red boxes used for Tuesday's charts to represent the time of the Flex Alert/ High Demand times but also added the purple ellipse.
The purple ellipse emphasizes the solar activity during/close it it’s peak. This trend is a bit unusual especially over the past few days.
The solar trend tends in general to follow a very consistent ramp up, peak, and ramp down.
That’s not what happened on the 8th. The solar trend looks like a saw blade.
Compare to the 6th:
The peak availability of solar on the 8th around 10,000 MW too whereas over the duration of the heat wave (and probably going back much farther into the summer) the peak have been in the 12-13k range.
Ah, and here’s what the sky looked like on the 8th in El Centro, the largest city in the county.
Now just what could be causing this?
Hurricane Kay kissed Baja California earlier this week and its remains (it’s now also been downgraded to a tropical storm) have moved north into the US Southwest bringing almost Santa Ana type winds3 but with a nice dose of rain to Southern CA which will bring much needed drought relief, and hopefully will help extinguish the fires- provided the wind and lightning don't start any additional ones.
Interestingly enough, the heat wave still isn’t over although it appears the state is through the worst of it.
But wait, there’s more!
As if the storm isn’t trouble enough, the smoke from the various wildfires raging across the state are also contributing to cloud cover over the state’s solar farms, emphasis mine. Per Bloomberg:
Wildfire smoke and cloud cover reduced output from solar farms on Thursday and will likely cut generation by as much as 1 gigawatt on Friday, according to Elliot Mainzer, chief executive officer of the California Independent System Operator. Weaker wind gusts on Thursday and Friday are also diminishing another important electric source for the state.
“Conditions have changed,” Mainzer said, pointing to “uncertainty about how much production we will have from our renewable resources.”
Edison spokeswoman Diane Castro said the threat of public safety power shutoffs may last into Saturday and would mostly affect customers in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties. The utility is forecasting strong winds with the highest intensity between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Friday.
And wind, CA’s second largest source of renewable energy, ironically took a break.
Nevertheless, I think’s it’s safe to say that at least that 1/4 of the state’s total solar capacity was running thin or not at all yesterday and is slated to do the same today and through the weekend.
Storms just don’t end at county lines either. Just a few dozen miles northeast of the Salton Sea in Riverside county sits the massive 550 MW nameplate capacity Desert Sunlight Solar farm. The weather there?
Adjacent San Bernardino County (to the north) also has a near absurd amount of industrial solar capacity. Neighboring Arizona and Nevada have some as well, although those would count instead as imports.
Whatever happens today, and the rest of the weekend, natural gas and imports will be there to save the say once again. Feel free to watch live.
As for Senator Weiner’s attempt to groom us into thinking a “3300MW huge investment in clean energy” made a difference?
Best day was 3359 MW on Monday, for a moment.
As for Tuesday, the day everybody in the state was told to prepare for rotating blackouts? 2700 MW for a blip of time.
Thanks for reading Green Leap Forward!
Nameplate capacity is NOT the same as production.
That 3900 MW assumes every square foot of every panel is producing solar energy which is an absolute best case scenario seldom seen in the real world. Plants are taken offline for cleaning and maintenance, experience curtailments, etc. Don’t be fooled by nameplate capacity. Renewables activists and energy-deaf journalists and politicians often don’t know or obscure the difference.
The green line on the Supply Trend chart (top) represents the sum of all the renewables which are split up[ into each type on the Renewables Chart (bottom). While solar does most of the work in the time frame we’re looking at, I figure it’s best to present both graphs in order to see where the other renewable sources are kicking in.