The California Energy Commission says that this winter's downpours were enough of a boon to the state’s hydroelectric power plants and other new sources that we are supposedly unlikely to have power shortages and grid problems this summer.
Rolling blackouts have been a black eye on some California summers going back to the early 2000s when Gray Davis was governor. And at this time last year, the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which oversees the power system and transmission lines, was warning there would be 'unprecedented' strain on the state’s power system in the summer months. Sure enough there was, particularly during the Labor Day weekend heat wave.
But this year, thanks to the litany of atmospheric river storms we endured from January through March, the Associated Press says that state energy officials are declaring it is unlikely we’ll have power shortages this summer. Their optimism springs from fuller lakes allowing them to reactivate some hydroelectric power plants that were of little use during the drought, and new wind and solar systems coming online this summer.
“I am relieved to say that we are in a much better position than what we were going into 2022,” California Energy Commission vice chair Siva Gunda told the AP.
Consider Lake Oroville, whose hydroelectric power plant was shut down the last couple years because the lake water levels were so low from the drought. This year, California’s second-largest reservoir is pretty much back to full capacity, its power plants should be running at capacity too.
The AP adds that the California ISO is expecting that “an additional 8,594 megawatts of power from wind, solar and battery storage will come online by Sept. 1,” and they estimate that’s enough to power about six million homes. That’s still three months away, though early September was the height of the heat waves last year.
All in all, these are great forecasts from the state ISO and California Energy Commission. But one name that is not mentioned in the AP report is the name PG&E (nor their SoCal counterpart Southern California Edison). And we’ve certainly seen outages caused by PG&E’s neglected power lines, or just even mishaps at their substations. Heck, even heavy winds can knock out power.
So the hydroelectric plants and other renewables have us looking in good shape from a power grid standpoint this year. But 2023 has been a crazy weather year, where it seems ill-advised to make predictions about what this summer will look like.
Image Антон Дмитриев via Unsplash