Wildfires inhibiting solar power generation in California

Guest “irony can be so ironic” by David Middleton

SEPTEMBER 30, 2020
Smoke from California wildfires decreases solar generation in CAISO

In the first two weeks of September 2020, average solar-powered electricity generation in the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which covers 90% of utility-scale solar capacity in California, declined nearly 30% from the July 2020 average as wildfires burned across the state. Wildfire smoke contains small, airborne particulate matter particles that are generally 2.5 micrometers or smaller (referred to as PM2.5). This matter reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches solar panels, decreasing solar-powered electricity generation. As of September 28, California wildfires have burned an estimated 3.6 million acres in 2020, an area about the size of Connecticut.

According to data from the California Air Resources Board, peak California PM2.5 pollution began increasing in mid-August and reached a record high of 659 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) on September 15, the highest level since record keeping began in 2000. Peak PM2.5 pollution is measured as the daily average value at the testing site that has the highest measured particulate matter concentration on a given day.


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Hourly Electric Grid Monitor; California Air Resources Board, Air Quality and Meteorology System
Note: CAISO=California Independent System Operator.

“Define Irony”

As if a state that can’t generate electricity, banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars, wasn’t ironic enough… We now have a state that blames the wildfires on climate change and thinks solar power is the way to fight that climate change, not being able to generate solar-powered electricity, because of the wildfires.

Where’s Steve Buscemi when you need him?

Did you know that Steve Buscemi was an actual firefighter?

DID YOU KNOW: Leading actor, former firefighter Steve Buscemi returned to NYC immediately after 9/11 to help search for survivors at Ground Zero
On September 12, 2001, the day after the tragedy, Steve Buscemi returned to his roots to help out his fellow New Yorkers.

Author: Reagan Roy
Published: 3:01 PM CDT September 11, 2020

NEW YORK — We all know Steve Buscemi as an iconic actor who’s been in some of the biggest blockbusters on the silver screen and critically acclaimed TV shows — “Armageddon,” “The Big Lebowski,” “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire,” just to name a few.

But, did you also know he is a former firefighter?

Buscemi was a firefighter in the Little Italy area of Manhattan from 1980-1984, when he left to become a full-time actor.

However, after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Buscemi found himself back at Engine Company 55.

On September 12, 2001, the day after the tragedy, Buscemi returned to his roots to help out his fellow New Yorkers.

According to Yahoo, Engine 55 had lost four firefighters on 9/11. 

“From September 12, he worked 12-hours-a-day for a week, helping his former colleagues search for survivors (343 firefighters were killed when the towers collapsed), digging through the remains of the World Trade Center for signs of life and helping to take away those who had lost their lives,” Yahoo reports.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Curious George
September 30, 2020 10:19 am

I don’t see any irony. Once all forests burn down, there will be no smoke (only dust) and millions of acres for new solar installations.

Hot under the collar
Reply to  Curious George
September 30, 2020 12:06 pm

Less irony, more karma.

Reply to  Hot under the collar
September 30, 2020 4:02 pm

That’s “Kamala”, braugh.

Pop Piasa
September 30, 2020 10:35 am

There were several days that the smoke even affected cloud cover where I live in Illinois. I was talking to a friend who put in a solar power system and was complaining that this whole year has been disappointing for solar. I told him the sun is in a deep minimum and likely is the cause of the persistent high clouds we’ve seen. He just laughed. 😉

Ron Long
September 30, 2020 10:36 am

Great video clip from Steve Buscemi, David, and it is irony indeed that Kalifornia messes up everything it touches. The phisiography of Kalifornia is actually quite attractive, so I’m wondering if the idiot Kalifornians got just form a circular firing squad and get it over with so rational persons could once again inhabit the state? I managed two gold exploration projects in Kalifornia, both in the Mother Lode, and every local I met was actually quite normal (including General Yeager who asked if us boys were going to make a mess or not? I invited him to visit the project and see for himself). Kalifornia, this is not going to end well.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Ron Long
September 30, 2020 11:34 am

As a long time, former resident of the state, I feel quite confident telling you that the hinterlands of Calizuela are quite sane and conservative! That’s what happens when you have to work for a living and don’t subject yourself to daily doses of left wing propaganda.
If the lesser SF Bay Area, LA County and some smaller infestations like Sacramento and UC Davis were isolated from the rest of the state you’d have a staunchly conservative entity with the best weather and mixed economy in the world! Maybe when he completes the border wall, Trump can get these infected areas isolated as well!
Incidentally, I prefer Calizuela, or Commifornia if you will, as they’re so much more descriptive of where the morons leading the state are heading! I like to leave the K’s for the DemoKKKrats who have always been quite enamored of them and nostalgically takes them back to their racist roots!

September 30, 2020 10:36 am

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of smoke stays these Calif. EPA and CARB legions from the swift completion of their appointed frauds”

September 30, 2020 11:33 am

‘average solar-powered electricity generation … declined nearly 30% from the July 2020 average as wildfires burned across the state.’

If I understand this correctly, particulate matter in the atmosphere has strong effect on the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface, and thus would affect, not only solar electricity generation, but also surface temperatures.

I remember visiting northern England in the 1970s and being surprised by the fog of coal dust floating around the streets in the small town where I was staying, from coal fired heating.

While I do not have the historical data on coal pollution, I know that coal particulate matter was a major problem, around the world, in the 1960s, and that since the 70s, great efforts were made to capture and eliminate this source of pollution.

Does anybody know if the reduction in particulate matter in the atomoshpere, since the beginning of the 1970s, has been considered as a possible contributor to the ‘global warming’ that we have experienced since the beginning of the 1980s.

Abolition Man
Reply to  dh-mtl
September 30, 2020 11:45 am

You ask an interesting question regarding particulate matter that I have been pondering for forty years or more. I also would like to hear of any studies in this area! Wouldn’t it be even more ironic if our attempts to lower pollution led to the increase in surface temps that were used to start the CAGW Hoax and cast a trace, beneficial gas as the arch-villain!

Reply to  dh-mtl
September 30, 2020 12:42 pm

Well, 50 years ago the bugaboo among the religious environmentalists was about the particulate (particularly sulfates) from coal power plants and how it would lead to Global Cooling and a new ice age.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  dh-mtl
September 30, 2020 1:54 pm

That very topic has been covered here at WUWT many times through the years. The decrease in sunlight reflecting (albedo increasing) aerosols as coal’s sulphur emissions were cleaned-up in recent decades is often lamented in the past by Warmunist-Alarmists.
Here’s just one example:

Abolition Man
September 30, 2020 12:02 pm

Thanks for the post and the hilarity that ensues! I’m pretty certain that I will never be anemic due to a high irony diet!
Sadly, I don’t think many residents of the once great state are self-aware enough to see the irony, or the ridiculousness, of what is being perpetrated in their name! Another example of how effective a good propaganda machine can become!
Thanks for the tip about Steve Buscemi. I’ve always enjoyed his acting work in favorites like Desperado, Fargo and Resevoir Dogs. Nice to see there’s a good, caring person beneath the Hollywood veneer!

Reply to  Abolition Man
September 30, 2020 1:02 pm

One of my favorite Steve Buscemi moments is in Boardwalk Empire when his character Nucky Thompson is working out a drugs distribution deal with the Black gangster Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams).

Remembering that this series is set in the 1920s prohibition era, Chalky refers to some other hoods as “motherf#$%ers”.
Whereupon Nucky gets a mystified, wtf look on his face and mouths slowly to the camera –
“mother – f#$%ers”???

September 30, 2020 12:22 pm

From the graph, it seems to me that the reduced solar generation could just as well be due to collection of dust on the panels rather than inhibition of solar radiation. The fire line does not parallel the generation line.

Neil Jordan
Reply to  DHR
September 30, 2020 1:03 pm

Good point. I am in So CA but not near the fires, but I noticed a dusting of fine particles and small flat plates of ash on my car. I used some precious water to take care of the problem. I wonder if the solar people are hiring mirror washeros to increase output.

Reply to  DHR
September 30, 2020 5:01 pm

The smoke spreads far and wide from your fireline. It’s turned the sun blood red here, hazardous air quality, just now, yet I am hundreds of miles from the fires, in a neighboring state. Believe me, the smoke has directly reduced solar generation in Kalifornia.

September 30, 2020 12:38 pm

Green Blight, Green Glut, nonrenewable energy converters, that cannot be reasonably isolated from the environment.

Keith Harrison
September 30, 2020 12:55 pm

Someone calculated that if California now installed solar panels covering an area equal to South Carolina, (about 29,000 sq mi) sufficient power could be produced for the whole state with no need for importing fossil fuel power from neighboring states.

This being the case, by installing the panels in massive solar parks around populated areas such as those areas burned over the years, the removal of forest and brush would crate massive firebreaks to protect populations from the future ravages of wild fires, create sufficient power capacity and employ many in the forestry and solar industries.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Keith Harrison
September 30, 2020 5:08 pm

That “someone” isn’t very intelligent.

Joseph Zorzin
September 30, 2020 1:27 pm

“In the first two weeks of September 2020, average solar-powered electricity generation in the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which covers 90% of utility-scale solar capacity in California, declined nearly 30% from the July 2020 average”

uh… geee… aren’t the days shorter in September compared to July? And shouldn’t that result in less solar “production”???

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
September 30, 2020 2:03 pm

The short-term dips and then recoveries in generation as the air cleared is direct evidence of a tau induced generation decline.

John S
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
September 30, 2020 4:53 pm

Agree that it is absolutely nonsensical to compare September to July. I have had solar on my roof in the Bay Area for 5 years … average July output has been around 540 kWh while average September has been around 420 kWh. However this September the output was only 333 … so clearly the smoke-laden air makes a big difference!

John S
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
September 30, 2020 6:14 pm

Anecdotally the solar production from my rooftop system for 2014 through 2019 averaged 540 kWh for the month of July and 420 kWh for the month of September.

September 30, 2020 1:58 pm

California is getting ready to add another millionaires tax, to make up for the fact that so many millionaires are moving out of the state.

The genius of the new tax is that according to the text of the bill, you are still obligated to pay this tax for 10 years after you have left the state.

I’m pretty sure the current supreme court would strike this part down. However, after the Democrats stack the court with their flunkies, all bets are off.

Joel O'Bryan
September 30, 2020 2:05 pm

CAISO should talk to the Mar Rover power engineers at JPL. The JPL engineering teams dealt with this solar power generation problem all the time on the solar powered rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Those two rovers arrived at the Red planet in 2004. And they are now dead due to dwindled solar panel power output to keep the batteries charged through a cold night.

What was NASA’s solution to such lack of reliable solar generation? Nuclear power.

When the power has to stay on, like in a power grid supporting a modern high-tech society, no one in their right mind would depend on solar power like Cal’s political idiot class are attempting.

Pat from Kerbob
September 30, 2020 3:27 pm

As a canadian, my favorite irony quote is William Shatner in Airplane 2;

“I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes”.

John MacDonald
September 30, 2020 7:02 pm

Direct observations from Mariposa, under the Creek Fire plume: For at least 10 days in Sept, our temps have been up to 20 degrees cooler than forecast due to smoke that at times made noon into twilight.

Geoff Sherrington
September 30, 2020 8:06 pm

So, what is the solution for this problem?
Smoke is produced whether the fire was unplanned, or planned for fuel load reductions. People are pushing for more controlled burns.
Smoke and it’s effect on solar generation looks like it will be an ongoing problem, not a temporary one.
Therefore, prudent planning would factor in the future effect of smoke on solar electricity reduction. Does anyone know if this has been done or will be done?
Note that smoke does not affect nuclear or fossil fuel generation. Geoff S

Abolition Man
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
September 30, 2020 10:18 pm

One of the biggest problems is the density of the forests is now much too high after years of no logging! Allowing private logging companies in to thin out the trees and remove dead and diseased trees would be an important first step as it would make planned burns more controllable!
Ideally any burning would be done off-season and scheduled around the weather forecast; a Pacific storm moving in in a few days prevents a lot of problems and removes most of the particulate matter! There’s quite a bit of good forestry science available; it just hasn’t been used in Commifornia in about forty or fifty years!

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Abolition Man
September 30, 2020 11:21 pm

I used to keep abreast of one of our subsidiary companies, then one of the largest pulp, paper and forestry companies in Australia. Yes, I agree that good professional forestry input is missing from many modern decisions, but I also wonder why foresters of today seem to have caved in without much apparent resistance. Geoff S

Abolition Man
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
October 1, 2020 5:55 am

Here in the States their problem seemed to be a lack of a bottomless bucket for their legal fund against frivolous lawsuits by enviro-wackos! That and the propaganda campaigns, financed initially by the CCCP and lately by the CCP, which convinced many city folk that environmentalists cared about people AND the planet when in most cases neither is true!

October 1, 2020 11:51 am

When the PM 2.5 levels were around 200 our little PV systems output dropped up to 50% when large particles were also in the air. Our monthly output looks like this;

2020 Output Average (n=13)
August 858 962
Sept 650 822

Our Sept output was reduced by the 2 PSPS- we were blacked out for about 51 hours- as well.

The smoke made it down to the Stanford area so I would of expected the output of their utility scale PV system to have been affected.


A flex alert has been called for PG&E today as it hot in the region and the smoke is affecting PG&E service territory.

October 1, 2020 12:03 pm

For several weeks from late August – September I awoke to a sun rising up like a bright red ball on the horizon as the El Dorado and Bobcat fires blazed furiously in the Los Angeles region. The sunlight felt diminished every day in those weeks even as the temps soared. And I wondered if my neighbors with the PV arrays on their roofs were being impacted. Now I know.

Mike McMillan
October 1, 2020 9:45 pm

That plane they were flying in Con Air was a C-123, what I was driving over in Vietnam. 135 knots cruise speed. I’ve gone faster than that on the ground. It would have been a state-of-the-art aircraft in WW2. Somehow, I don’t recall the interior had enough room for dancing girls on an elevated stage. Two jeeps or three standard pallets, maybe. Sure hated to see them trash the bird at the end of the movie.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights