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California Solar Energy Statistics Data
Photo by Warren Gretz NREL 01225
Solar electricity production in California falls into two categories – solar thermal, using the concentrated heat of sunlight to heat a fluid to make steam to turn a traditional turbine and generator making electricity; and solar photovoltaic (PV), the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity. Additionally, the heat from the sun is used in solar thermal systems for hot water in homes and businesses and in heating swimming pools. Most electricity from PV is not counted into the total electricity production of the utility companies as the solar panels are mounted on individual homes or businesses.
Solar thermal facilities are concentrated in the desert areas of the state in the Mojave area. In 2016, solar PV and solar thermal power plants produced 19,783 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy or 9.98 percent of the state’s total electricity production. A total of 658 operating Solar power plants, with an installed capacity about 9,865 megawatts, are in California.
Prior to the Renewable Portfolio Standards in 2002, 13 solar thermal power projects were planned in California, with 11 of those filing applications with the Energy Commission. Nine projects (Solar Energy Generating Station – SEGS I to IX). totaling 354 MW, were built. SEGS III to IX are owned by FPL Energy, and SEGS I and II are owned by Sunray Energy Inc. Approximately 4,500 MW of solar thermal is in the license review process or are planned to be built.
Solar PV surpassed solar thermal in installed capacity in 2008. The cumulative installed capacity reached 441 MW by the end of 2008, eclipsing the 354 MW of solar thermal. Assuming each system installed kW produced 1,500 kWh, then California PV systems produced 661,500,000 kWh (661.5 GWh). That’s nearly as much as the 675 GWh of electricity by solar thermal in 2007.
One large photovoltaic (PV) array was built by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District near its Rancho Seco Nuclear Plant. It went on line in August 1984 and has an installed capacity of 3.19 MW. However, utility-scale PV projects are being planned. There are two of them planned in San Luis Obispo County totaling 800 megawatts in installed capacity.