Solar Energy Is Being Wasted in California

April 25, 2021 Updated: April 25, 2021


California this year has wasted enough renewable energy not connected to the grid to power more than 325,000 households—enough to provide all the household electricity needs for Anaheim, Irvine, and Riverside combined, or about 90 percent of San Francisco households.

Totally wasted.

Rooftops and fields throughout California have solar arrays that generate more power than can be used.

Local utilities and system operators disable those power sources from sending power to the grid, lest transmission and distribution lines have more power than can be used at that particular time.

Power lines require that the power supplied equals the power used. This is why “energy storage” is such a big deal. If the power supplied doesn’t exactly equal the power used, power lines can sag, which has the potential to start fires in trees and other vegetation.

Through April 22, the California Independent System Operator has “curtailed” 677,890 megawatt-hours of power.

In other words, the power being generated by the solar arrays and other renewable power sources is disconnected, or curtailed, by California from the rest of the power network. This is because California generates more power between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. than it can economically use.

Lack of Storage

Part of the issue is that California installed more solar than can be stored. The other factor is that other power sources are not so easily curtailed.

For example, with hydroelectricity, water still has to be released from dams to manage fisheries and to maintain the structural integrity of the dams. Also, thermal power plants that burn gas, for example, can’t just be turned off. There’s a high cost to turning such power plants on and off.

Enough Power for 325,000 Households

One megawatt of power equals 1,000 kilowatts of power. A “megawatt-hour” is one megawatt of energy used or created for one hour. A “kilowatt-hour” is one kilowatt of power used or created for a one-hour period.

Californians are some of the most efficient power consumers in the nation, using an average of 557 kilowatt-hours of electricity every month. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, “Californians use about 33 percent less electricity at home than do customers in the rest of the country.”

All the wasted power so far this year equates to 677,890,000 kilowatt-hours.

It means the average number of kilowatt-hours curtailed, or wasted because it was generated but not used, so far this year has averaged 181,577,679 kilowatt-hours per month.

At an average usage of only 557 kilowatt-hours per month, that 181.6 million kilowatt-hours of monthly destroyed electricity would have provided all the electricity needs for 325,992 California households.

For comparison, Anaheim has about 101,000 households, Irvine has 98,000 households and Riverside has 91,000 households. The entire city of San Francisco has about 362,000 households.

If politicians and other policymakers keep pushing solar power before we learn to store all that energy, California is just going to end up wasting more generated electricity not being sent to the power grid.

Tim Shaler is a professional investor and economist based in Southern California. He is a regular columnist for The Epoch Times, where he exclusively provides some of his original economic analysis.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.