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California Has So Much Solar Power They're Actually Paying Other States To Take It

California is dealing with a significant solar energy problem. While most problems with the renewable resource would involve not getting enough sunlight, the recent boom of solar panel installations in the state is creating too much energy. It’s caused utility companies to pay states around them to take their excess energy, and they’re looking for ways to fix that issue.

Today’s electrical grid poses a problem for some renewable energy sources. It’s created for traditional energy sources like fossil fuels that can be controlled. Solar and wind power cannot be controlled and its production varies on cloud cover, weather, etc. If too much electricity gets into the grid, it will be overpowered and that can lead to blackouts. 

These electrical blackouts have been on the rise for many years now. In the early 2000’s, there were roughly 44 reported outages in the United States. After 2010, that number has gone up to an average of 200 outages, and there were 130 reported in the first six months of 2014. There were massive power outages that hit major cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles just last April.

Gretchen Bakke, who has written a book about these issues called The Grid, spoke to NPR about why utility companies can’t manage this issue: “We don't actually have a good way yet to store electricity, not on a large scale. We have little - we have our little batteries in our telephones, for example. And so we think that we have electricity storage. But in fact for the grid, we don't.”

NPR / Fresh Air

This is what California is currently working on to fix their excess energy problem. Right now, they have to pay for states to take it so they can avoid overpowering the grid and causing blackouts. It comes at a cost because states like Arizona and Nevada don’t need that power, but will limit their energy generation if they get paid.

Mother Nature Network reports that “in the last six months alone, California has added 77 megawatts of battery storage capacity.” Southern California Edison, an energy supply company, opened up a Tesla battery facility back in January just east of Los Angeles in Ontario. It contains a capacity of 20 megawatts with 198 Tesla Powerpacks across 1.5 acres.

Ontario was chosen out of 70 different sites, and the battery storage facility was placed there mostly due to its turnaround time -- it took six months to plan and build it. While that won’t happen with every facility, it does give an indication of how quickly California could fix their solar energy problem. 

If there were 70 potential spots for a battery storage facility, those and other areas could likely get one as well. That’s good news for a state that doesn’t want to back down from using renewable sources, and they plan to be completely fueled on them by 2045.

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