Wholesale energy prices dip below zero because of California's solar power

Solar power shines bright in California, and wholesale energy prices prove it.

Last winter and early spring’s dependence on solar drove wholesale energy prices to negative prices, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Solar power in the California Independent System Operator accounted for nearly 40% of net grid power for three hours on March 11, 2017, the administration reports —a major first.

These figures don’t translate for the consumer into retail prices, which are based on averages. But the move will likely cause energy companies to pay more attention to green energy options.

Solar represented 13% of California’s power last year, according to the administration.

America's solar industry now employs more than a quarter of a million people after a breakneck year that saw employment grow by a record 25%. That growth is expected to continue into 2017 as low-cost solar panels nudge coal and natural gas out of the electricity marketplace.

California led the country with 100,050 solar jobs in 2016, according the nonprofit Solar Foundation. That was up from about 75,600 solar jobs in 2015. The nation's solar workforce grew from 209,000 in 2015 to more than 260,000 last year, the fastest growth the Solar Foundation has seen in the seven years it's published such data.

"The solar industry currently has more (U.S.) workers than Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon combined," said Andrea Luecke, the Solar Foundation's executive director.

Others around the nation are taking note of solar’s successes, too. Solar panels are showing up in the most unlikely places, even atop the Kentucky Coal Museum.

Sammy Roth of The Desert Sun contributed to this report. 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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