Topaz Solar Farm, one of the largest photovoltaic arrays in the world, sits atop San Luis Obispo County's Carrizo Plain and generates 550 megawatts when the sun shines.

A sunny Tuesday last week raised the profile of solar power in California when a record 8,030 megawatts was captured along the state’s electrical grid shortly after 1 p.m. on July 12, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) announced. That amount of energy has the potential to light up over a million homes and is close to twice what the solar grid produced in mid-2014. Together with wind and other renewables in the state’s energy portfolio — which includes geothermal, small hydroelectric, and biofuels — “green” energy met 29 percent of the ISO’s needs by the time Tuesday’s electrical demand peaked at 5:54 p.m.

The California ISO, which manages the flow of power along 80 percent of California’s high-power, long-distance transmission lines, estimated a total of 8,600 megawatts (a megawatt is a million watts) are available in the state from solar installations, which can range in size from the 550 megawatt Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County to the 40 megawatt project being built in the Cuyama area of Santa Barbara County. Power from both Topaz and the Cuyama Solar Array Project, which broke ground last month, Errin Briggs of the county Energy Division told The Independent, are headed for PG&E transmission lines. PG&E operates SLO’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant, whose 2,160-megawatt-producing nuclear reactors are slated to be out of business by 2025.

With an eye to California’s goal of generating one-third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and 50 percent by 2030, the ISO also announced that renewables met more than 50 percent of the energy demand for short times on May 14 and 15.


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