In October, power plants generating 530 megawatts of electricity came online in the United States. And every single electron put on the grid came from the sun, according to a report released today.
It’s possible to make too much of the fact that solar energy was the sole source of new electricity capacity in US that month. After all, the completion dates of power plants can be random. That’s particularly true for complex, multibillion-dollar, fossil fuel power stations that can take years to build and are subject to oversight by state regulators.
However, it is also possible to be too dismissive of this energy shift and the fact that solar supplanted coal and natural gas in October. It’s not a huge amount of power – at peak output 530 megawatts is what a medium-sized natural gas-fired power plant would generate. But it’s a clear sign that solar is no longer a niche play – especially when you consider that the October’s numbers don’t include the installation of roof photovoltaic panels on homes and businesses. In California alone, for instance, 19.5 megawatts of rooftop solar was installed in the territories of the state’s three big utilities just in October.