On March 11 California marked a significant juncture in its energy production. For just a few hours between 11am-2pm, California solar created enough electricity to actually bank negative wholesale prices. This is a huge contrast when compared to the same hours (8am to 2pm) in the month of March between 2013 and 2015, when average hourly wholesale prices ranged from $14-45 MWh.
California Solar Growth
During those hours on March 11, the US Energy and Information Administration (EIA) estimates that solar and alternative energies generated approximately 4 million kilowatthours (kWh). This accounts for more than 40 percent of their net grid power produced (source). This is HUGE; especially since California has the second largest energy demand in the nation (source).
In 2007 California solar accounted for less than 1 GW of energy production. At the end of 2016 solar had climbed to nearly 14 GW! California continues to lead our nation in solar production. The state accounts for almost half of the total US solar (source). The chart below illustrates the dramatic climb solar has taken in the state of California.
Unfortunately this does not mean that residents get a refund on their electricity bill, or free power. However, they will see a slight reduction in their bill. Energy costs are based on average prices, so the negative hours will drive the overall cost down just a bit. March is historically the states lowest energy consumption month so it is unlikely we will see a negative dip again this year.
Unfortunately at this time, power providers do not possess the capacity to store large scale surpluses like those created on March 11. Companies are now tasked with reevaluating how they store, deliver, and charge for electricity based on this new possible norm, especially since solar installation continues to sky rocket.
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