California has been a leader in renewable energy. How it manages energy over-abundance may determine whether other states follow its clean-energy lead. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
California produced so much renewable energy this spring that wholesale electricity prices dipped below zero (‘negative pricing’). The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) predicts that if the build-out of solar in the state continues its current pace, California will have an overabundance of energy around midday nearly every day by 2024. This situation means that CAISO is buying less electricity from gas and nuclear plants: these plants may be forced to close down before renewables are ready to take on the entire load. California still needs gas and nuclear to help with the evening demand for energy, when solar generation goes offline and people arrive home and start switching on their appliances. Clean energy advocates and power managers are focused on three main solutions to this quandary: storing the abundant energy in batteries; shifting demand from one time of day to another; and spreading the power generated by clean energy beyond the state’s borders.
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