100% Renewable California Energy Milestone

Solar and wind power projects have been booming in California, like the Pine Tree Wind Farm and Solar Power Plant in the Tehachapi Mountains, but that doesn’t mean fossil fuels are fading away quickly. Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Recovery from a long-term addiction to fossil fuels was never going to be easy. Necessary? Yes. But it will still be a long haul even with milestones like this one in the western USA. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this news:

California just ran on 100% renewable energy, but fossil fuels aren’t fading away yet

On a mild Sunday afternoon, California set a historic milestone in the quest for clean energy. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing and on May 8th, the state produced enough renewable electricity to meet 103% of consumer demand. That broke a record set a week earlier of 99.9%.

Energy experts say the falling records are a sign of the remarkable progress that renewable energy has made. But that doesn’t mean fossil fuels were out of the picture.

Even as the record was broken, natural gas power plants were still running in California.

Because despite the dramatic growth of renewable energy, turning off natural gas power still isn’t possible in California. The reason is due to a tricky time of day: when the sun sets and solar farms stop producing. California needs to replace that power quickly and seamlessly with other sources, like hydropower and natural gas.

The state is rapidly building huge battery projects for that purpose, so power generated during the day can be stored for use at sunset. But so far, it’s still a small fraction of what’s needed.

It’s a sign that, even as California and more than a dozen other states work towards long-term goals of getting 100% clean energy year-round, weaning off fossil fuels is no simple task.

“Their role is not going to go away until we have a substitute for the service that natural gas generation provides,” says Arne Olsen, senior partner at Energy + Environmental Economics, an energy think tank. “The good news is that you can get an awful long way just by adding wind and solar and batteries to our current grid.”…

Read the whole story here.

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