California Solar Increased 350 Percent in 2013

UPDATE: See a short interview with Commissioner David Hochschild  about California's effort to reach the 33 percent by 2020 goal for renewable energy generation.

Solar energy systems are on rooftops throughout California and figuratively blasting through the roof, according to new data compiled by the California Energy Commission. The latest Tracking Progress report for renewable energy shows that solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity increased by 350 percent last year. This growth trend is expected to continue. Solar thermal and PV systems capable of producing 825 megawatts (MW) of electricity have been installed so far this year and an additional 1,650 MW of capacity is being built.

 This chart shows solar PV generation is skyrocketing. Solar thermal generation is down slightly.

As you can see from the second chart, solar is a small but growing part of the renewable energy mix in California. The cost of solar PV panels has dropped 80 percent since 2008, which has helped make large-scale PV plants more feasible. At the same time, incentives from state programs such as the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) are helping drive adoption of residential solar. The goal of the NSHP program is to install 360 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity by the end of 2016 and the Energy Commission has distributed more than $100 million with another $80 million reserved for pending NSHP projects.

The Tracking Progress report covers all types of renewable energy in California: solar, wind, biomass, small hydroelectric and geothermal. The report also shows that wind production continues its significant growth. Wind accounted for 45 percent of renewable generation in 2013, up from 41 percent in 2012. We have seen large-scale solar development in our state for many years, but 2013 data make clear that the dramatic transition to large-scale solar is now changing California’s energy portfolio.

The report estimates that in 2013, California served about 22 percent of retail electricity sales from renewable energy. That exceeds the required level of renewable energy in the state’s aggressive Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). For 2011 through 2013, the RPS requires all electricity retail sellers to procure an average of 20 percent of retail electricity sales from renewable sources. The target gets higher as we move forward. Renewable energy sources should provide 25 percent of our energy by the end of 2016 and 33 percent by the end of 2020, targets that we are on track to meet.

California’s growth in solar energy tracks with national growth, which was up 418 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s April 2014 Electricity Monthly Update.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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