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How very cool

For a few minutes on Saturday afternoon, all of California’s energy needs were met by renewable energy for the first time.

That’s according to data from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the state’s non-profit grid operator, which recorded the landmark moment around 2:50 p.m. on April 30, the California Desert Sun reported.

At that time, the state’s overall production of renewables hit a peak at 18,629 megawatts, comprised primarily of solar (66 percent) and wind (25 percent), rounded out by geothermal, biomass, biogas and hydro, data from CAISO shows.

Now do it at night.

19 thoughts on “How very cool”

  1. The entirety of California only uses 18.6 Gigawatts?

    Right.. Now pull the other one.. It’s got bells on…

  2. @ Ottokring
    But if you look at the amount California generates (as distinct from consumes) it comes out at an average (over the year) of 21.8GW. So on a Saturday afternoon when most businesses are inactive it might get down to 18.6 GW if it maintains the same level (or even %age) of imports. Does Vice know the difference between production and consumption, I wonder.

  3. Ottokring / John77:
    CA-ISO reports that as of 14:50 on April 30, statewide demand was 18,074 MW, so yes, for a (technically) “high load” hour California did produce enough renewable energy to satisfy demand. The complications noted above are real: it’s only electric, not total energy demand; while Saturday afternoon is classed as a high load hour, in fact it is a shoulder period, and; April / May is well before peak A/C season, which is what pushes CA loads up into the 30-40 GW range (and sometimes higher).
    Today’s estimated peak is 23.5GW, or 28ish with reserves. As Tim notes, using renewables at night will be tough; today’s peak is anticipated at hour 20, or 8:00pm. Unfortunately, PV solar has pretty-much rolled-off by then – to Andrew M’s point above, there is a three to four hour gap between peak PV solar output and A/C demand. Nothing batteries can’t address, but as always the issue is ‘at what cost?’ More to the point, at what opportunity cost?

  4. Call it a wild stab in the dark, but I’m guessing that there have been periods exceeding two minutes when “renewables” have produced absolutely nothing.

  5. Interesting point about aircon use. We tend to use ours night times. Day times one’s out & about & it’s not required. It’s trying to sleep in the hottest months of the year. I wondered how general that is, or is it just us? Sure, commercial premises will be running A/C during the day. But how much switches over to domestic consumption, night times. If it’s general the PV/A.C balance argument doesn’t really hold

  6. When we lived in South Australia, with its blazing hot desert’s edge summers, we didn’t have air con. We slept perfectly well with ceiling fans.

    In winter we never used our oil-fired heating: we wore woolies, backed up occasionally with an electric fire powered, at a distance, by brown coal.

    One electric fire for a whole house.

    Mind you, air con was desirable in a car. Our car didn’t have it but the 4WDs we hired to go into the bush certainly had. You bet.

    Our car when we lived in NZ had air con. And completely pointless it was except for de-misting duty occasionally.

  7. Hitting demand with those renewables is the start of a problem. Because of the Contract for Difference with the renewable suppliers, they get paid even when the supply exceeds demand. So if they now expand and double their generation capacity next time they get these conditions half of their generation capacity wouldn’t be used but they still get paid for it. So they supply the same amount of energy but get paid double.

  8. I’ve never been mad enough to go to Calif in the Summer rather spring and Autumn so it was very pleasant. Isn’t it dry heat though, not humid like the east coast or tropics where AC at night is a must ?

  9. This part of the year there is neither heating or air-conditioning needed. This is also wind season, white 25kt winds for several days in a row. Solar also is at peak efficiency with cool temperatures and no clouds. Get back to me in August with a Four Corners high pushing monsoon clouds and humidity into costal areas. Both solar and wind production plummet, demand skyrockets. Brownouts ensue. This year there won’t be much hydro to fall back on.

  10. @dearieme
    The curious thing is it’s not me wants the A/C running on July & August nights. It’s people born & brought up in the tropics

  11. I grew up in the Middle east and have since been there and in Africa a fair bit. If you’re of blue-eyed blond-haired Viking stock like me you do adapt a fair bit, especially if you’re sleeping outdoors in the country. But air con is important for most people in cities if you want a good night’s sleep on a humid summer night, no matter how acclimatised you are. I wonder how far away the revolution is?

  12. As “Woody” notes, there is a world of difference between Electricity and “Energy”. The latter includes all the other uses of fossil fuels, such as making steel & plastics (essential for wind farm towers), fertilizers & chemicals, to say nothing of heating currently provided by gas. The latter can approach SIX TIMES the maximum UK electricity demand (in GWs) during winter. Even if gas heating could be totally replaced with electricity, none of the other uses can. The Zero Carbon future will remain a dream in the minds of brain dead greenies, and the gullible politicians who suck up to them…

  13. “For a few minutes on Saturday afternoon, all of California’s energy needs were met by renewable energy for the first time.”


    For a few minutes the output from ‘renewables’ equalled demand, but it is impossible to ‘meet’ demand for a few minutes.

    Base load must be constant, and demand above must be constant. To study off all non-renewable input in an instant for a few minutes and then re-establish it in an instant after a few minutes is technically impossible without collapsing the grid.

    This is the fiction with ‘renewables’, it is not aggregate output that matters, it’s consistency, continuity and despatchability.

    Renewable will always need 100% back-up from fossil fuels.

  14. @ dcardno
    I confess myself surprised but corrected: for a “shoulder” hour to be less than 60% of mean demand is strange – one would expect it to be near the median and 80-ish% of the mean.

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