Increased Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) output in March appears to be due to higher output from the Ivanpah CSP plant.
Renewable energy consultant Bernard Chabot has released a new analysis of renewable energy in California, which finds that utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants produced 891 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity in March 2014.
This allowed utility-scale solar to meet 5.1% of the state’s electric demand during the month. When wind, geothermal and biomass are included, non-hydro renewable energy met 17.7% of California electric demand during March 2014. When large hydro is included, this number rises to 22.4%.
This analysis is based on data from California’s grid operator, and as such does not include “behind-the-meter” PV. California’s portion of demand met with solar is already roughly equivalent to Spain or Germany in 2013, and if the estimated 2.2 GW of distributed PV in the state were included, it would be higher.
The biggest change in solar output during the month was a near-doubling of concentrating solar power (CSP) production from 36 GWh in February to 60.5 GWh in March. This means that CSP made up 6.8% of total utility-scale solar production, to meet around 0.35% of the state’s electricity demand.
This is largely due to higher production from the Ivanpah CSP plant. At least one unit from Ivanpah was off-line during all of January and February 2014, but during many days in March all three units were producing power.
Chabot notes that the operational characteristics of CSP make it more suitable to meet California’s electric demand. “Beyond this large difference in production in March between solar PV and solar thermal power, solar PV production is still much less sensible than solar thermal production to the variations of the monthly, daily and hourly meteorological and solar irradiation conditions,” notes Chabot.
“One conclusion from this result is that solar thermal power plants should be built with storage capabilities to present at least the same electricity system integration performance and compliance than PV plants.”
From January through March 2014, utility-scale solar PV and CSP met 3.9% of electric demand. Over this period renewables met 18.8% of California’s electricity demand, with utility-scale solar tied with hydro as the second-largest source of electricity after wind.
Were behind-the-meter PV to be accounted for, PV would be meeting more of the state’s electric demand than hydroelectricity.
For more information, see the full study.