US Solar Electricity Production 50% Higher Than Previously Thought

By Jason Kaminsky (kWh Analytics) & Justin Baca (Solar Energy Industry Association), Greentech Media

Renewable energy’s share of our overall energy mix is at the highest level in over 70 years — even with the drought-induced decline in Western hydropower output.

In California, increasing solar power generation made up for the shortfall in hydropower production. In fact, solar production was up so much that California became the first state to get more that 5 percent of its electricity from utility solar. This dramatic growth in solar generation has driven the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to make a regular habit of reporting record solar outputs as more and more plants come on-line. But while solar electricity produced on the utility side (wholesale) of the meter is easily counted by these agencies, they don’t count distributed generation — the smaller systems located on rooftops — which represents a huge portion of solar generation.

In an effort to provide a more complete estimate of solar generation in the U.S., SEIA and kWh Analytics completed an analysis of U.S. solar production, including previously uncounted generation from behind-the-meter systems. The results were astonishing: we estimate that actual solar production is 50 percent higher than the previous best estimates of solar production. In the 12 months ending in March, solar energy systems in the U.S. generated 30.4 MWh of electricity. The Energy Information Administration’s utility-only estimate for the same period is 20.2 million MWh.

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