The EIA released the latest edition of their Electric Power Monthly on May 25th, with data for March 2017. March data includes some milestones which are significant in that these circumstances have not existed for a very long time, if ever.
• The contribution from solar reached just over 2 percent
• The contribution from All Renewables exceeded that from Nuclear
• The combined contribution from Wind and Solar exceeded 10 percent
• The contribution from Non-Hydro Renewables exceeded 12 percent
The graph below shows the total monthly generation at utility scale facilities by year versus the contribution from solar. The left hand scale is for the total generation while the right hand scale is for solar output and has been deliberately set to exaggerate the solar output as a means of assessing its potential to make a meaningful contribution to the midsummer peak.
This year the increase in solar output in March seems significantly greater than in the previous three years. The solar generation capacity in the U.S. increased by over 57 percent for the year 2016 and data is not yet available from the Solar Energy Industries Association for the first quarter of 2017 nor do I have access to the data for the final quarter of 2016 so, it may be that an unusually large increase in capacity has occurred over the last six months. It remains to be seen if the February to March increase in solar output is some sort of aberration or if the steep increase has continued into April.
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