California is shattering renewable records. So why are greenhouse emissions creeping up?

The green beacon that is the state of California is making clean-energy strides, according to new stats out this week. It’s harnessing a record amount of solar power, building more turbines to capture wind power records, and closing in on the moment when the grid goes 100 percent carbon free.

And yet it’s also starting to generate more greenhouse gases.  WTF?

Since 2015, renewables have helped California decrease the amount of greenhouse gases its power plants released into the atmosphere. But this past February, the state’s electricity was more carbon intensive than it was in 2017, and in March it was even worse.

What’s that all about? There’s a hint in the report by CAISO. (see http://www.caiso.com/Documents/MontlyStats-Apr2018.pdfnew stats)  California had to dump about 95,000 megawatt hours of renewable power in April, because all that power would otherwise have flooded onto the grid when people didn’t need it — blowing fuses, igniting fires, and melting every computer without a surge protector. 

Transporting electricity and storing it is expensive, so the people managing the electrical system ask power companies to stop putting power on the grid, to curtail their production. It’s called “curtailment” in electric-system jargon. As the number of solar panels feeding the grid increases, so do curtailments.

 

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