Californians told to cut back electricity usage as heat wave threatens to knock out power grid 


California residents have been instructed to cut back on their electricity use as an unrelenting heat wave threatens to overwhelm the state’s power grid.  

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) issued a Flex Alert instructing residents to conserve energy between 5pm and 10pm on Thursday to avoid rolling blackouts as blistering temperatures sweep across the Southwest. 

Temperatures have already shattered dozens of record highs across the region, including California, Arizona, Montana and Idaho, and more are expected to come this weekend, according to AccuWeather.

Death Valley could soon break its own 1913 record for the hottest air temperature ever reported on Earth, at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. And both Palm Springs and Thermal could reach 120 degrees by Friday, breaking their respective records of 117 degrees in 2017 and 119 degrees in 2015.  

‘The public’s help is essential when extreme weather or other factors beyond our control put undue stress on the electric grid,’ Elliot Mainzer, the ISO president and chief executive officer said in a statement. 

‘We have seen the huge impact that occurs when consumers pitch in and limit their energy use. Their cooperation can really make a difference.’ 

The heat wave has also taken a devastating toll on an already drought-ravaged region, drying up water supplies and torching vegetation. 

Amid the current heat wave Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in southern Nevada, has fallen to its lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s. 

The lake’s water level has now dropped 143 feet below its 2000 level, or 34.7 percent, when it was last considered full. What’s left is a ‘bathtub ring’ of white minerals as tall as Lady Liberty along the lake’s steep shoreline. 

California residents have been instructed to cut back on their electricity use as an unrelenting heat wave threatens to overwhelm the state’s power grid 

Lake Mead was considerably larger in 2000
The lake's water level has now dropped 143 feet below its 2000 level

Amid the current heat wave Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in southern Nevada, has fallen to its lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s

The water level of Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam has met its lowest level on record as California 's megadrought leaves millions under emergency rations. Pictured June 9

The water level of Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam has met its lowest level on record as California ‘s megadrought leaves millions under emergency rations. Pictured June 9

The sun sets over the ridge at Hoover Dam on May 13, 2021. The concrete arch-gravity dam constructed in the 1930's in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River provides drinking water to Arizona, Nevada, and part of Mexico

The sun sets over the ridge at Hoover Dam on May 13, 2021. The concrete arch-gravity dam constructed in the 1930’s in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River provides drinking water to Arizona, Nevada, and part of Mexico

Images from June 9, 2021 show how the most recent drought in western U.S. and has affected the water levels in the Hoover Dam reservoir of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada

Images from June 9, 2021 show how the most recent drought in western U.S. and has affected the water levels in the Hoover Dam reservoir of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada

Temperatures have already shattered dozens of record highs across the region, including California, Arizona, Montana and Idaho

Temperatures have already shattered dozens of record highs across the region, including California, Arizona, Montana and Idaho

In its statement the ISO noted that Gov Gavin Newsom previously called for residents to conserve energy during heat waves last September – which led to a reduction of enough electricity to power up to three million homes.

‘By collectively taking a few simple actions, electricity use can be reduced enough to keep power on for everyone,’ the statement read. 

‘If demand still outstrips supply after Flex Alerts and other measures are taken, the ISO could again order utilities to begin rotating power outages. That would extend available power supplies and guard against longer and more extensive disruptions while protecting high-voltage transmission lines from damage.’

But the National Weather Service is also urging people to stay inside ‘and seek air-conditioned buildings.’

Additionally, it said, people should try to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks if participating in outdoor activities.

People with dogs should also check the temperature of the asphalt before taking them for a walk, and the Fairfield, California Police Department warned people not to keep their children and pets in the car without the air-conditioning on for long periods of time.

Forecasters say this current heat wave won’t just be remembered for its intensity, but also for its duration.

Aside from straining electrical grids, the severe temperature is drying up water supplies and vegetation, which creates a combustible concoction for wild fires, and affecting 40 to 50 million people in the region.

More than 20 large wildfires are already burning in Arizona, California and other parts of the West. 

And approximately 89 percent of the western US is experiencing drought conditions, with more than half reported to be in ‘extreme’ and ‘exceptional’ drought, and this region is on track for its most severe drought in history. 

Rupa Basu, chief of air and climate epidemiology for the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, told CNBC that the drought and heat wave create a ‘perfect storm’ for fires and poor air quality.

Park Williams, a University of California, Los Angeles, climate and fire scientist, calculated that soil in the western half of the nation is the driest it has been since 1895. ‘We could have two, three, four, five of these heat waves before the end of the summer,’ he told the Associated Press.

Death Valley could soon break its own 1913 record for the hottest air temperature ever reported on Earth, at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Tourist Patrick Fox is seen posing next to a temperature sign reading 129 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley on Wednesday

Death Valley could soon break its own 1913 record for the hottest air temperature ever reported on Earth, at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Tourist Patrick Fox is seen posing next to a temperature sign reading 129 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley on Wednesday

Forecasters say this current heat wave won't just be remembered for its intensity, but also for its duration

 Forecasters say this current heat wave won’t just be remembered for its intensity, but also for its duration

Skyrocketing temperatures have caused utility companies to urge residents to conserve energy or risk rolling blackouts

 Skyrocketing temperatures have caused utility companies to urge residents to conserve energy or risk rolling blackouts

Death Valley could soon break its own 1913 record for the hottest air temperature ever reported on Earth, at 134 degrees Fahrenheit

Death Valley could soon break its own 1913 record for the hottest air temperature ever reported on Earth, at 134 degrees Fahrenheit

Through this Saturday, Death Valley temperatures could come within 10 degrees or less of its all-time high of 134 degrees Fahrenheit, which was set during a five-day heat wave in July 1913, according to AccuWeather.

The forecast predicts temperatures will reach highs in the mid-120s each day in Death Valley, which is a long, narrow basin nearly 300 feet below sea level. In comparison, the average high for mid-June is 110 degrees.

The Death Valley area is so hot because its surface is barebone rock and soil, which radiates heat back but it never escapes. The hot air is walled in by steep mountain ranges, which traps heat in valley’s depths.

The ISO encouraged residents to prepare for the conservation alert earlier in the day by lowering their thermostat to pre-cool their home, using major appliances like their washer/dryer, closing window coverings to keep their home cool, charging electronic devices and charging electric vehicles. 

From 5pm to 10pm, the ISO urged residents to set their thermostat to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using major appliances, turn off unnecessary lights, use fans for cooling and unplug any devices that aren’t in use.

California experienced its first rolling blackouts in 19 years during a heat wave on August 15, 2020. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. mistakenly ordered a 400-megawatt power plant in Fresno County to scale back, which caused the system operator to order utilities to shed power. But Mainzer said that communication has improved and the electrical grid has seen upgrades in power storage and transmission since then.

‘We’ve characterized the situation going into this summer as guarded optimism,’ he said. ‘We do think that we are in a generally better position than last summer.’

Residents swarmed the beaches of California to cope with this week's heat wave

Residents swarmed the beaches of California to cope with this week’s heat wave

Beachgoers dove into the waves to cool off in weather soaring above 100 degree Fahrenheit

Beachgoers dove into the waves to cool off in weather soaring above 100 degree Fahrenheit

Residents flocked the beaches of California as record-high temperatures continue to plague the Southwest

Residents flocked the beaches of California as record-high temperatures continue to plague the Southwest

Meanwhile, in Texas, residents could be faced with more blackouts as the state braces for a heatwave and its embattled grid operator is rocked by ‘unplanned outages’.

Residents were told to conserve energy Monday through Friday in a warning issued just four months after rolling blackouts left millions without power and 700 dead during February’s devastating winter storms.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) put its grid condition alert level to yellow – a conservation alert – Monday urging customers to limit their electricity usage’ as much as possible’.

ERCOT officials said Monday it was struck by a significant number of unexpected, unplanned outages at its power plants.

Around 12,000 megawatts of generation were offline – equivalent to enough energy to power 2.4 million homes across the state on a hot day.

Officials admitted the outages were not expected and did not confirm what had caused them.

However, ERCOT Senior Director of Systems Planning Warren Lasher conceded that it was ‘very concerning.’

Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, admitted that the alert was ‘unusual for this early in the summer season’ and that the company was investigating why so many plants were offline.

The forced outages at the plants come in tandem with a spike in electricity use due to record hot weather in the state.

Temperatures are forecast to top the mid to high 90s for much of the state this week, leading residents to ramp up their air conditioning units to stay cool.

This comes just one week after state lawmakers took steps to try to try to prevent a repeat of the crisis.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law to reform the state’s energy grid including the creation of a statewide emergency alert system and requiring power companies to upgrade their power plants to withstand more extreme weather.

It also requires changes to ERCOT’s governing board.

While the hot weather is playing a part in the state’s current power issues, it was the cold weather that set off the power issues back in February.

More than 700 people – more than four times the final death toll shared by Lone Star State officials – are thought to have died as a result of the winter storms and the subsequent power outages then.

An analysis by Buzzfeed News last month said 702 people died from causes likely related to the storm. The state’s final official tally was 151.

The crisis exposed cracks in the state’s energy supply, despite Texas long regarding its energy independence as a source of great pride.

ERCOT admitted at the time the state had been just ‘seconds and minutes’ away from ‘months-long’ blackouts.

The CEO tried to defend the company’s actions that sparked the greatest forced blackout in US history before he was fired in March.



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