“California dreaming” is a famous catchphrase, but our state doesn’t linger in wistfulness. Instead, we dream big and then we go big. Our state isn’t afraid to embrace change and lead the pack. Nowhere is this sentiment truer than in how our politicians, institutions, businesses, and citizens have embraced California solar power and other sources of renewable energy.
And our efforts continue to pay off. California is the number one producer of solar power in the country. We didn’t just eek out this victory, we shattered the record. In fact, we’ve broken quite a few solar energy records over the past decades and are likely to keep breaking them as we lead the country into a renewable energy future.
California Record 1: State that produces the most solar energy in the country.
Setting the Groundwork
One of the biggest reasons California is such a huge producer of solar energy is because our state and local officials have a history of lowering our carbon footprint. That started back in 2006, when Governor Schwarzenegger signed the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which required a sharp reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Following in his predecessor’s footsteps, Governor Brown signed an even more ambitious bill in 2015. The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act calls for the Golden State to produce at least half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. This bill has put the rest of the country on notice that California is leading the charge, and the results speak for themselves!
Our state government isn’t the only one jumping on board the solar panel train. Many of our cities and municipalities are making headlines for their groundbreaking programs. For example, in 2016, San Francisco became the first city to pass a law requiring most new buildings to incorporate rooftop solar panels or solar heating units!
California Record 2: San Francisco was the first city to legally require certain new buildings to have rooftop solar.
Building the Infrastructure
Legislation like the California Global Warming Solutions Act and the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act, along with buy-in from the state’s public utility companies, has led to a golden age of solar energy in California. Companies have flocked to start building a solar energy empire within our borders. Many of our long stretches of sun-soaked deserts are now home to massive solar panel farms as well as solar thermal power plants.
It should come as no surprise that our state is home to the oldest solar power plant, the Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) thermal power plant in the Mojave Desert, which was completed in 1990. We can also boast about the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, which is currently the largest solar thermal power plant in the world. Its 173,500 heliostats have the capacity to produce 392 MW (megawatts) of energy each year.
Our state isn’t slowing down, either. In Kings County, Westlands Solar Park near Fresno is under construction. The park, with its numerous photovoltaic power plants, will be the largest photovoltaic power plant in the world, with an estimated capacity of over 2,000 MW a year!
California’s residents aren’t sitting out of the solar revolution. According to the Los Angeles Times, 234,000 residents had solar panels sitting on their roofs in 2014. That number is likely to be dramatically higher today. So many Californians have invested in California solar energy that residential solar panels account for roughly 4% of the state’s entire energy production!
Let’s see more of those records roll in:
California Record 3: Home of the oldest solar power plant in the world, the SEGS thermal plant.
California Record 4: Home to the largest solar thermal power plant in the world, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility.
California Record 5: Home to the largest photovoltaic power plant under construction, the Westlands Solar Park.
California Record 6: Most residents with residential solar panels.
A Solar Leader
With the political willpower and solar infrastructure in place, it’s no surprise that California has become a solar energy record-smashing machine. In 2016, California was ranked above any other U.S. state for cumulative solar capacity, leading the pack with over 18,000 MW of installed solar electric capacity. That’s enough to power over 4.7 million homes in the state! Just for comparison, the next closest state, North Carolina, had just over 3,000 MW of installed solar energy capacity in the same year, enough to power around 340,000 homes.
California’s solar energy revolution has also led to big headlines. In March of 2017, the state crossed a huge threshold, producing 67.2% of its energy from renewable resources and proving that our goal for 2030 isn’t just another big California dream.
Additionally, our California solar power revolution has led to other records lying in the dust. We employed over 100,000 workers in the solar energy field in 2016, the highest number in the country. We have the capacity to produce 466 watts of renewable energy per resident each year — although that actually isn’t a record. Nevada owns the title for highest solar energy capacity per capita at 745 watts per resident. However, considering that California has a population of 39.5 million while Nevada’s population is just under 3 million, we’re okay losing out on this particular title!
Here are our final California solar power records:
California Record 7: Produced over 67% of its energy from renewable resources.
California Record 8: Has the highest number of solar industry jobs in the country.
Join the Winning Team
Holding all of these solar energy records feels pretty good, don’t you think? Everyone loves being a winner, especially when victory also means our state is taking real steps to lower its carbon footprint, which can help combat climate change.
We have no doubt that California’s big ideas and ambitious renewable energy goals will translate into even more shattered California solar energy records in the future. Do you want to help our state reach its goal to produce 50% of its energy needs through renewable resources by 2030? Then it’s time to take advantage of historically low pricing on solar panels by scheduling an energy audit with Semper Solaris.