California Is Showing How a Big State Can Power Itself Without Fossil Fuels

California Renewables Fossil Fuels GHG free Electricity

Something approaching a miracle has been taking place in California this spring. Beginning in early March, for some portion of almost every day, a combination of solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower has been producing more than a hundred per cent of the state’s demand for electricity. Some afternoons, solar panels alone have produced more power than the state uses. And, at night, large utility-scale batteries that have been installed during the past few years are often the single largest source of supply to the grid—sending the excess power stored up during the afternoon back out to consumers across the state. It’s taken years of construction—and solid political leadership in Sacramento—to slowly build this wave, but all of a sudden it’s cresting into view. California has the fifth-largest economy in the world and, in the course of a few months, the state has proved that it’s possible to run a thriving modern economy on clean energy.

A good place to view this feat is from Mark Jacobson’s home—a light-filled two-story modernist house that he shares with his family at the end of a classic suburban cul-de-sac on the edge of the campus of Stanford University, where he is a professor of civil and environmental engineering. In part, that’s because the house is an energy-efficient showpiece; its solar panels produce more than enough energy to cover what he uses, though it is still tied to the grid. In the garage, there are two Teslas (including a 2009 Roadster with a license plate that reads “GHG Free”) and a pair of the company’s Powerwall batteries.

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