Eclipse Shines Light on California’s Clean Energy Leadership
On Monday, August 21, a solar eclipse will pass over much of the United States. And when it moves across California, this rare celestial event will shine light on the fact that our increasingly clean energy mix can reliably meet the power needs of the world’s sixth largest economy.
California is building a 21st century clean energy system that’s better for our communities, our economy and our planet. Solar is a huge part of our renewable energy success, with more than 10,000 megawatts of operating utility-scale solar projects as well as over 5,600 megawatts of rooftop solar installed on homes and businesses, making the Golden State far and away the nation’s solar leader. During the peak of the eclipse, the state’s impressive solar production will drop by more than half, in a way that’s totally predictable. In fact, the California Independent System Operator, the managers of our statewide power grid, say they have been planning for this event for over a year and are confident that our power won’t be interrupted.
That lies is stark contrast to America’s outdated centralized, fossil- and nuclear-powered approach to energy, which burdens customers nationally with unexpected outages and price spikes that range from inconvenient to catastrophic. In fact, solar is already proving more reliable than California’s traditional power plants during summer heat waves. That’s because thermal power plants that run on fossil fuels and nuclear power can malfunction when the temperature rises. According to the CAISO, more than 6,400 MW of natural gas and nuclear power —enough to power 7 million homes — was unavailable for service during the June heat wave. Meanwhile solar was able to tap that same summer sunshine to produce reliable power.
During this month’s eclipse, grid operators expect to backstop reduced solar production primarily with existing gas-fired peaker plants. In the future, we’ll be able to meet similar needs with a less polluting, more efficient mix of resources, but only if our policymakers keep prioritizing deploying more 21st century technologies like battery storage and smart appliances.
We urge the Legislature to pass SB 100, Senate President Kevin de León’s bill that sets the ambitious but achievable goal of running California’s grid entirely on clean energy by 2045. You can show your support for a 100% clean powered California here! We also encourage the California Public Utilities Commission to advance clean energy as they provide direction on integrated resource plans for California’s utilities. Building a modern energy system that makes best use of our reliable renewable resources is key to California’s energy leadership.