California to nearly double wind, solar energy output by 2020 -regulator


Nov 14 (Reuters) - California is set to nearly double itswind and solar power generation over the next seven years asutility companies try to meet the state's requirement to source33 percent of energy from renewables by 2020, reliabilityregulators said.

The state is expected to add 8,000 megawatts of renewableenergy by 2020 and needs to build or keep in service gas-firedpower plants to cover changes in wind and solar availability,the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) said in anassessment released on Wednesday.

NERC, the power reliability coordinator for the UnitedStates, Canada and parts of Mexico, worked with the CaliforniaIndependent System Operator (ISO), the state grid operator, todetermine what the ISO is doing to integrate the new renewableplants and recommend steps to keep the system reliable.

As variable resources become a larger part of a system'sresource mix - on the order of 20-30 percent - NERC saidreliability services, such as frequency response, voltagecontrol, transient stability, load-following and rampingcapability can be impacted.

There are currently 10,700 MW of wind and solar powerconnected to the California ISO grid, which is expected to riseto 18,700 MW in 2020, according to the report.

One megawatt powers about 1,000 homes.

Fossil-fueled, large-scale hydro and nuclear power plantshave traditionally provided electricity supply to the grid.

Unlike traditional power plants, which grid operators canrun for as long as needed to meet demand, wind and solarfacilities are generally only available when the wind is blowingor the sun is shining.

One of NERC's recommendations was for generators inCalifornia to build or keep in service flexible power plantslike gas-fired units that can quickly ramp up and down inresponse to changes in renewable power output.

"Renewable generation provides a great basis for greeningthe grid and reducing the electric industry's greenhouse gasfootprint," California ISO President and CEO Steve Berberichsaid in the statement.

"Their intermittency can be supported by a clean andflexible gas generation fleet, which California is currentlytransitioning to." he said.

Over the next decade or so, generating companies expect tobuild about 6,400 MW of new gas-fired generation in California,according to a Reuters survey.

The biggest power companies participating in the Californiaelectric market include units of Edison International,PG&E Corp, Sempra Energy, NRG Energy Inc, Dynegy Inc and AES Corp.

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