First Solar's California Flats power station near Shandon
California met its goal to produce about half the state’s electricity from renewable sources for three hours on March 11, a new estimate from the U.S. government shows.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s statistics division used data from the California Independent System Operator, which manages the electricity grid across 80 percent of California and part of Nevada, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The record was set when almost 40 percent of the electricity flowing across the grid came from large-scale solar power plants.
Factor in electricity produced by area homes and businesses, and solar met about half the overall electricity demand in the middle of the day.
In eastern San Luis Obispo County, 700 to 800 people have continued to work on First Solar’s 280-megawatt California Flats Solar Project, which is expected to be finished in December 2018.
“When the project is completed, it will provide enough clean energy for approximately 100,000 homes (a year),” construction manager Rick Backus said.
Although the surge in renewable power is a key part of California’s fight against climate change, it creates its own set of problems. California produces so much solar power on bright summer days that some is shunted off the grid, in a process known as curtailment.
“We’re seeing the potential for more curtailment this summer,” Independent System Operator spokesman Steven Greenlee said. “The thing is, we’re seeing this happen sooner than our initial analysis suggested.”
California aims to have 50 percent of all electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said when Rick Backus spoke to The Tribune.