Solar Power Now California’s No. 1 Renewable Energy Source

Renewable energy comes in many forms, the most popular variants of which include wind, solar, and water currents. Can you guess which one emerged as the number one source in California?

If you said “solar”, then you guessed right. This was based on a report released via a news item by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the primary power grid manager in the state. According to the report, solar power plants provided 6.7 percent of the total electrical output in 2015. In comparison, wind power comprised 5.3 percent of the total.

Hydroelectric power continues to fuel a good percentage of the energy requirement of California, but 2015 saw it tumble down to 5.9 percent. In other words, solar power has bypassed hydro in terms of its contribution to the state’s energy needs.

The shift to solar wasn’t drastic when it first saw implementation. Back in 2012, CAISO reported that solar energy was only 0.9 percent of the energy total in California, while hydro was pegged at 9.3 percent. During this time, wind energy was also higher at 4 percent.

Drought Affected Hydro

Although electricity from fossil fuels and natural gas continue to dominate the power market, solar power has emerged as a viable alternative source. This proved to be timely for the state, as the recent drought experienced in California greatly affected the hydro power generation industry. Despite the drop in hydroelectric energy in recent years, the state didn’t have to resort to importing energy because of the availability of solar energy and readiness of its solar generation systems.

In addition to this, the increase in demand for renewable energy has resulted in cheaper installation costs for solar energy. “As utilities have worked to meet their renewable energy mandates, solar has become a favorite choice because the cost of photovoltaic panels has declined so much that it is more competitive than most other forms of energy,” said California Solar Energy Industries Association chief Bernadette Del Chiaro.

The California Independent System Operator handles roughly 80 percent of the entire California power grid, which is also served by other big-name utility companies in the state.

[Photo courtesy of Bill & Vicki T on Flickr]