EIA: California Sets Another Solar Power Record
In a not-at-all surprising, yet welcome announcement, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on March 24 that California had become the first state to generate over 5 percent of its electricity from utility-scale solar.
The EIA qualified “utility-scale solar power” as those installations that generate a minimum 1 megawatt of energy. Those installations in California produced a whopping 9.9 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity in 2014, a 6.1 million MWh—or 160.53 percent—increase over 2013. The staggering additions to California’s solar capacity in that year meant that the technology increased from a 1.9 percent share of the state’s electricity generation in 2013 to 5 percent the very next year.
That being said, while we at Energy Digital are thrilled that our home state would be the first to receive the honor, we have to rhetorically ask: is anyone actually surprised that it’d be California?
In fact, it’s not even close. The following four states—Nevada, Arizona, New Jersey and North Carolina (in that order)—ended up producing a fraction as much as The Golden State.
Take Nevada, for example. That state’s share of power generated by solar increased from 2.2 to 2.8 percent in 2014 over 2013, but that constituted an overall increase of less than 1 MWh. In fifth place, New Jersey’s solar power accounted for .7 percent in 2014, an increase from .3 percent in 2013.
When looking at the data with a highly critical eye, the picture that seems to emerge is that California took the honor because it’s the only state investing in utility-scale solar in any real way.
“California has promoted solar power through a series of state policies, including a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires electricity providers to obtain 33 percent of the power they sell from eligible renewable sources by 2020,” the EIA said in a report.
Another aspect of the EIA’s report is more troubling. While solar is rapidly expanding in California, the overall share of electricity generated from renewable sources of energy is significantly down from 2011. That’s because several consecutive years of extreme drought conditions in California have caused hydroelectric power generation – which produced quite a bit more than half of that total in 2011—to fall by more than 46 percent compared to the previous five-year average.
For its part, growth in solar offset 83 percent of that decline, but it’s safe to say that going forward, our gardens and our televisions alike could do with some rain.
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.