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California's Excellent Problem - Excess Solar Energy!

JackSawyer MA, United States 0 Ratings 11 Discussions 8 Group posts

Posted by: JackSawyer // Student

This spring California has seen a low demand for power during the day while solar energy continues to be churned out by panels that are able to supply power for 3 million homes - there is excess energy, and this creates an interesting problem - what can you do with excess energy? Companies are trying to find creative and profitable solutions to deal with that excess unused energy.

Currently the excess energy is being sent across to Arizona, excess solar energy is cheap in comparison to energy from power plants and so utility companies are jumping on the opportunity to buy up cheap solar. This is good for California and the country as a whole because solar will only continue to grow in CA and across the country. Subsequently, the excess will only grow and with that prices could potentially plummet. The idea of excess energy opens up a plethora of new business models and opportunities.

If the excess become so great, companies could adopt a model like that of streaming services for example, if there is excess they could do monthly subscriptions for energy. Or a company could specialize in creating the infrastructure to get the excess energy to distant states. There is potentially a lot of opportunity here and I'm sure, with capitalism the way it is, someone will come in and create a business around the extra energy. What do you think about this situation?

For additional information:

Stone, Will. "Getting Paid To Soak Up California Solar." Inside Energy. Corporation of Public Broadcasting, 26 May 2016. Web. 05 June 2016.>.

Allison Friedman Weston, MA, united-states 0 Ratings 99 Discussions 131 Group posts

Allison Friedman // Rate It Green Admin

You'd think too much solar is a good problem to have! But not necessarily.

After I read your post, npr had an interesting story on this. It seems that natural gas plants are still needed in the mix because of course you can't rely on solar consistently at all times (maybe we can when we work out amazing long term storage options), and a delicate balance is needed to make this all work out smoothly. With too much power in the system, there's a risk of blackout from the excess. And this is a problem that needs solutions, as California barrels towards a goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030.

Apparently there is so much excess that sometimes solar farms are told to shut down, which is unfortunate. This happened in March 27 - can you imagine telling a solar farm to stop collecting what is virtually free energy? This seems contrary to all climate and environmental goals.

One solution you mention seems obvious and easy - California should just share this power with neighboring states for a huge win-win. And this is what California's Independent Grid Operator has proposed. Oddly, there seem some hard-to-believe politics in the way. PacifiCorp, a utility that runs a grid in Oregon, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming isn't sure it wants this clean power. Even though customers in these states and California could save $154-$335 million annually! And California perceives a disincentive for "getting involved" with a coal company? Sharing clean power somehow makes California less clean? And taking Calinfornia's power is perceived as a risk to coal interests in these other states?

Surely calmer heads will prevail, right? Apparently the soonest integration can happen in 2019. That's unfortunate. At least it sounds like Arizona was smarter - and faster.

To read or listen to the KQED npr science piece:


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