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Growth in Solar Energy Has Helped Diversify California’s Fuel Sources

By Media Office Staff

California saw solid growth in its installed solar energy capacity and generation from 2016 to 2017, which among other increases in the use of renewables, has helped diversify the state’s sources of fuel, according to a recent report by the California Energy Commission.

The Energy Commission’s tracking progress report on installed electric power capacity and generation cited solar as a particular bright spot, thanks to the addition of several new solar generation projects into California’s energy mix, which is called total system power.

Capacity reflects the total capacity of various types of facilities to generate electricity while generation shows the actual generation of electricity produced. The information used to estimate total system power is different than what is used to determine compliance for California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard.

San Benito County led the state in adding solar capacity with the completion of the 240-megawatt Panoche Valley Solar Project. Other projects highlighted by the report include Monterey County’s 130-megawatt California Flats North Project, and various smaller installations activated across the state.

In all, solar photovoltaic capacity rose by nearly 12 percent, and solar generation by more than 25 percent.

Other green energy sources like biomass, geothermal, small hydro, and wind power helped lift total generation from renewables up nearly 2 percent between 2016 and 2017, accounting for just shy of 30 percent of the state’s total electricity generation.

Power plants which run on natural gas, a fossil fuel, remain California’s biggest source of energy capacity and generation by a large margin, but its use has declined steadily in recent years against solar and wind power’s rise in popularity.

The progress report also zeroed in on above average hydroelectric generation in 2017 because of the strong snowpack, which helped end the state’s long-running drought.

Aside from solar, natural gas, and hydroelectric, all of the state’s other major sources of energy have remained stable in 2017. The use of coal, oil, wind, biomass, and nuclear power fell, but only registered modest declines in generation, according to the report.

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