Could California Use Solar and Other Renewables for Most of its Electric Power?

Back in 2015, California opened a 550 MegaWatt solar farm near Joshua Tree National Park. It was the world’s largest. It spans 3,800 acres and generates enough power for 160,000 homes.

Could California get most of its electricity from solar power and other renewables?

First let’s look at the state’s current electricity sources. It gets 10% from solar and another 19% from other renewable sources. That’s a great start and now we need to keep going!  

California used about 292,000 GWh of electricity in 2017 from all sources. See Table below from California Energy Commission (CEC).


California Energy Commissions Total System Electric Generation Chart on Website For Solar Energy

Ref Cal Energy Commission:


Could Renewable Energy Sources produce most of California’s Electric Power?

Lets look at the numbers. Electricity from non-renewables like coal, gas and nuclear account for 47% of the energy produced. We used 292,039 million kWh of electricity in 2017 so 47% is about 137,000 million kWh.

That would require about 94,000 Megawatt of solar installations. And they would cover about 650,000 acres which is 102 square miles. Assume a total of 5 times that amount, to allow for access and service areas around the solar arrays, transmission lines and include large battery storage sites, that would total 513 square miles.

The state of California’s official land area is 164,000 square miles. So the solar energy systems would cover about 0.3% of the land area, which is tiny. California contains lots of mountain regions, rivers and other unsuitable regions, but 513 square miles of solar array zones spread through the state at suitable locations would use a very small amount of the total land area!

Solar Panels needed for Yearly Production

In California a standard 0.27kW solar panel, at full capacity equivalent of 4.5 hrs per day, produces 0.27×4.5×365= 443 kWh a year.

This would require about 137,000 million/443 = 309 million solar panels.


For California to become an all renewable solar energy State, large solar panel arrays scattered through California in suitable places would require 513 square miles of area, which is about 0.3% of the state’s land surface.

The solar arrays could be installed in the many desert and uninhabitable regions located within a suitable distance to a town or city and to existing transmission lines. Also on the roofs of homes and businesses.

The state would become independent of outside power agencies and be self-sufficient for electricity production to meet all commercial and residential needs.

And its carbon footprint would drop steeply! But that’s another story.

Alex Nicolson
Solar Consultant





Why Now Is The Best Time to Transition Over to Solar Energy!

Massive Drop In Solar Power Costs In The Past Decade

Solar Energy has gone through some major changes in the last decade. It was an interesting new high-tech source of clean energy which could be installed in areas with good sun exposure for most of the day.  

But back in 2009, solar power cost about 36c/kWh for electricity produced, when coal fired power cost 70% less and natural gas power was a whopping 80% cheaper.

Even though solar is clean energy, that was a big hurdle to overcome!

Then as advances were made in solar power manufacturing and technology and solar efficiency of panels greatly improved, the cost to produce solar panels and install them started to drop steeply and by the end of 2017 solar was producing power cheaper than natural gas!  (See chart below)

cost of solar energy today

So there has never been a better time to go solar in your home and business!

Also solar power is environmentally friendly and produces no greenhouse gases or other atmospheric pollutants. Unlike conventional fossil fuel fired electricity which is produced in large centralized power plants. The power is distributed on expensive high voltage power lines, often over hundreds of miles to your neighborhood with significant power loss.  

Many of these distribution systems are already old and in dire need of major repairs and upgrades and power outages are becoming more frequent.

Some power companies are now being sued for starting fires when components in their distribution systems break down, give off sparks and start fires in remote regions which then spread unnoticed until they are out of control.

This happened last year with the massive fires in Montana and locally in Napa Valley, Santa Paula and Montecito.  

Solar power bypasses all these problems.

The best power source for a town or city is one which is environmentally clean, has no carbon footprint, is already widely distributed, does not need to be transported long distances, is easily available to install anywhere and is inexpensive.

Today’s solar meets all these needs!

Need a free quote?

Let me know!



Top Ten Countries with the Most Installed Solar Power

I just saw this data online about installed solar around the world and plotted it out.

China is well ahead with total installed Solar, followed by Japan, Germany and USA, which are all about the same!


Top 10 countries with solar power


The numbers change a lot when population is taken into account as shown in the graph below. Australia and Germany are well in the lead, then Japan and Italy at the same level.

The US is surprisingly low, at only 25% of the top 2 numbers and came in 6th on the list, behind the United Kingdom!

                                    amount of people in the world with the most solar power

With much lower solar energy per square foot in high latitude countries like the UK and  Germany, it must be a lot more expensive to install Solar Power in these northern countries than in the US.

Also they have much more cloud coverage through the year and snow cover in winter!

So they must have much better incentives for installing solar!  Or maybe their fossil fuel energy costs are a lot higher?

The Next Revolution in Green and Solar Energy

Discarding Outdated Fossil Fuel Accounting Practices

The green revolution and in particular, renewable energy products such as solar power, wind turbines, geothermal and algae based fuels are not waiting for viable technology; it already exists in many forms. What they are waiting for is a massive sea change in our antiquated financial accounting systems.

Continue reading “The Next Revolution in Green and Solar Energy”