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California Solar Energy Statistics & Data

Solar Energy Generating Station in Mojave Desert
Photo by Warren Gretz NREL 01225

Solar electricity production in California falls into two categories - solar thermal, using the concetrated heat of sunlight to heat a fluid to make steam to turn a traditional turbine and generator making electricity; and solar photovoltaic (PV), the direct conversion of sunlight into eletricity. Additionally, the heat from the sun is used in solar thermal systems for hot water in homes and businesses and in heating swimming pools. Most electricity from PV is not counted into the total electricity production of the utility companies as the solar panels are mounted on individual homes or businesses.

Solar thermal facilities are concentrated in the desert areas of the state in the Mojave area. Solar thermal power plants produced 0.22 percent of the state's total electricity production in 2007 (675 gigawatt-hours out of a total of 302,072 GWh).

Prior to the Renewable Portfolio Standards in 2002, 13 solar thermal power projects were planned in California, with 11 of those filing applications with the Energy Commission. Nine projects (Solar Energy Generating Station - SEGS I to IX), totaling 354 MW, were built. SEGS III to IX are owned by FPL Energy, and SEGS I and II are owned by Sunray Energy Inc. Approximately 4,500 MW of solar thermal is in the license review process or are planned to be built.

Solar PV surpassed solar thermal in installed capacity in 2008. The cumulative installed capacity reached 441 MW by the end of 2008, eclipsing the 354 MW of solar thermal. Assuming each system installed kW produced 1,500 kWh, then California PV systems produced 661,500,000 kWh (661.5 GWh). That's nearly as much as the 675 GWh of electricity by solar thermal in 2007.

One large photovoltaic (PV) array was built by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District near its Rancho Seco Nuclear Plant. It went on line in August 1984 and has an installed capacity of 3.19 MW. However, utility-scale PV projects are being planned. There are two of them planned in San Luis Obispo County totalling 800 megawatts in installed capacity.


 

Solar Thermal Electricity Production
(In Gigawatt-Hours; Includes Imports)


1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
Solar 2 11 33 64 188 315 471
Total Generation 199,609 211,900 210,172 211,028 220,371 232,926 238,567
 
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Solar 681 719 700 857 798 793 832 810 839 838
Total Generation 252,355 242,343 245,535 242,026 256,719 256,367 253,621 255,080 276,412 275,803
 
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Solar 860 837 851 759 741 660 616 675 available in 4/09
Total Generation 280,496 265,059 272,509 276,969 289,359 287,977 295,268 302,072