California wildfires hurt solar revenues in peak generation season
Wildfire near Lake Isabella in California. Author: U.S. Department of Agriculture. License: Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic.
California’s Kern county, home to 4.9 GW of installed solar power capacity, saw average irradiance in June drop by between 1% and 4% in different parts of the county because of wildfires.
Environmental and industrial measurement firm Vaisala calculates that a 1% loss in solar power generation in a month of peak production could lead to more than USD 940,000 (EUR 854,400) of lost revenues in Kern county, based on a power purchase price of USD 150 per MWh.
Overall, the company says that wildfires on the US West Coast this summer have had a significant impact on the performance of local photovoltaic (PV) parks, hurting revenues during peak generation season.
"[..] faced with the significant financial impact of performance fluctuations caused by regular wildfires, it's clear that solar asset owners and operators in commonly affected areas need to start factoring this regional risk into their plans - particularly since these incidents typically coincide with the peak generation season."
In California, fires this year have covered an area of more than 180,000 acres. Apart from Kern county, in July and August there were also major wildfires in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, which too have a lot of solar capacity, resulting in visible irradiance shortfalls on Vaisala's monthly maps.
In 2015 energy from grid-connected, utility-scale solar plants has surpassed wind for the first time in California, Vaisala said recently. Solar generation has grown from 1,000 GWh in 2011 to 15,592 GWh in 2015, equal to 6.7% of the system total.