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California has potential for 17 million MW of solar capacity

California has potential for 17 million MW of solar capacity

SACRAMENTO, California, US, May 25, 2005 (Refocus Weekly) The state of California has the technical potential to install 16,822,184 MW of solar PV, according to a white paper from the California Energy Commission.

That capacity in 29 counties could generate 100,139,176 MWh of green power a year, estimates the draft ‘California Solar Resources in Support of the 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report.’

“California has enormous, although largely untapped solar resources,” with current capacity of 350 MW of concentrating solar power facilities and 100 MW of solar PV. While analyses of solar resources show that “PV can be deployed beneficially almost anywhere in California,” while CSP facilities require higher concentrations of solar resources and are more suited to the southeastern part of the state.

“Ignoring economic constraints, the technical potential for PV in California exceeds 17 million MW of capacity. If applied to existing residential and commercial rooftops, the technical PV potential exceeds 74,000 MW of capacity. If CSP facilities are deployed only in those areas where the annual average direct-normal insolation exceeds 6 kWh per day per square meter, the CSP technical potential exceeds 1,000 MW of capacity,” it concludes.

Renewables currently generate 11% of the state’s electricity, and the Renewable Portfolio Standard established in 2002 requires power suppliers to procure at least 1% of their electricity from green power resources in a goal of achieving a 20% renewable mix by 2017. The state Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission and Power Authority recently approved the Energy Action Plan to accelerate that 20% target date to 2010.

The white paper is designed to estimate the solar resources within the state which could be used to meet the RPS and EAP goals, and updates the resource information contained in the 2003 Renewable Resources Development Report.

California’s new home market is growing at 200,000 homes per year and building-integrated PV “has the potential to significantly increase the market growth of PV systems in California,” and the installation of 2.5 kW BIPV systems on 2% of new homes would result in a first year growth of 10 MW of new PV capacity. If the percentage of new homes with BIPV systems increased to 10%, the contribution of electricity at the end the first decade would be 400 MW of generating capacity, and a 50% level would mean the total electricity contribution from PV could be 1,800 MW by 2017.

“The technical potential associated with developing PV for central station applications and on residential and commercial rooftops exceeds 17 million MW of capacity,” the report notes. “If PV is developed in the nearer term only as residential and commercial rooftop systems, the technical potential is still in excess of 75,000 MW of capacity. While not treated in this white paper, the actual amount of PV to be developed in California will be largely determined by economics and the special benefits that PV systems may provide to communities.”

Unlike PV, CSP systems can use only direct normal insolation to generate electricity, and the technical potential assumes that level locations with clear and high solar resources are the most technically appropriate location. The report examined only locations with above-average solar radiation of 6 kWh per day per m2 and no more than 1% slope, and also excluded urban areas, forests, water, roads and any sensitive areas and parks. Of the 16 counties which meet those parameters, the state-wide CSP technical potential is 1,000 MW of capacity which could generate 2,717,544,893 MWh of green power.

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