Fresno-area residential solar units continue to climb atop Central Valley rooftops including Kings County. Figures show 729 homes in Kings County hooked up to their own rooftop solar in 2014, some 966 in 2015 and 1180 homes last year.
With the growth in more home energy production and increased energy efficiency
state energy planners and PG&E now say the Fresno region may not need some of those big cross-valley transmission lines they told the public as recently as last year were required to keep the lights on in the near future.
The forecast for Fresno-area rooftop solar power generation is pointing higher in the next few years from around 60 megawatts in 2016 to 215 megawatts by 2020 and to 600 megawatts by 2026 says a recent California Energy Commission study.
California Independent System Operator (CAISO) spokesperson Steven Greenlee, citing a November 2016 report says “there is less need for” the proposed 70 mile “Central Valley Power Connect project because of primarily growth of rooftop solar and demand response and energy efficiency.”
PG&E had been pushing to build the $145 million proposed 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line stretching from the Gates Substation near Coalinga to the Gregg Substation in Madera County. The idea was to provide the electric transmission capacity needed to supply forecasted growth in the region. The line would have traveled through Kings County and was at one time scheduled to be use by 2020.
Now that seems unlikely although the CAISO is to make a decision in March.
In 2015 PG&E said that the new transmission line was necessary to accommodate west Fresno County’s growing electricity demand, which PG&E said was largely due to farmers growing use of irrigation pumps. PG&E also stated that the existing transmission poles could not provide the expected additional capacity required.
But instead of bringing in more distant power there has been a major increase in so called “distributed energy” – making more power close to where the demand is.
Another factor in the possible cancellation of the project is that daily power loads in the region have been shifted to later in the day as the public has reduced demand in midday. That frees up Helms, the big PG&E pumped storage plant in Sierra, to store energy for other uses on the statewide grid rather than meet Fresno’s hunger for power midday. “That helps free up congestion in the system” says PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo.
Of course it is not just homes that are generating their own power theses days. Businesses including big energy users on the farm, dairies and ag processors are all joining the crowd. The latest example locally is at Westlake Farms who is installing ground-mounted solar units next to their landmark Hwy 41 ranch and yard. “This will take care of most of our power needs” says owner Ceil Howe.