“Less water means more gas”: How drought tests California’s stressful power grid | Climate Crisis in the Western United States

Earlier this month, Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest reservoir, was so low that dozens of houseboats were shipped. There wasn’t enough water to hold them.

Within a few weeks, the lake’s water level could drop further, officials said, forcing it to shut down one of the state’s largest hydropower plants for the first time since it was built in 1967.

In a historic megadrought, California’s climate and energy crises are clashing and creating a vicious circle. Declining water supplies in the state are reducing hydropower, and California is becoming more dependent on fossil fuels because of the extreme summer heat that drives electricity usage.

Noah Diffenba, a climate scientist at Stanford University, said: Meteorologists anticipate hot and intense summers, experts say, reducing hydropower will put more pressure on the state’s already stressed power grid as residents across the region turn on air conditioning. I am. Droughts also dry the west, which could undermine the goal of moving to carbon-free electricity as states become more dependent on gas-fired power plants.

Hydropower plants generate electricity from water as it is sent to farms and cities, and use the flowing water to power turbines. However, when the water level in Oroville and other major reservoirs dropped, the amount of electricity generated by the spill was cut in half.The· Hoover Dam so Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United StatesReduced power generation capacity by about 25% due to the low water level. So far this year, hydropower accounts for only 7% of the electricity generated in California.

“California is not entirely dependent on hydropower,” explained Stephanie Pinsetl, founding director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But less water and less hydropower means more natural gas and coal.”

The water level on Lake Oroville was so low earlier this month that dozens of houseboats were shipped. Photo: Aude Guerrucci / Reuters

This is because gas-fired power plants are still the easiest and most reliable way to add power to the grid. The state is increasing the production of renewable energy, especially from solar and wind power, but the energy from these sources is available for a period sufficient to ensure that the population’s electricity is up and running during the hottest months. There is not enough infrastructure to store. “To build a more elastic grid, we need more renewable energy generation and battery storage,” said Pinsetl. She said the state’s goal of building a carbon-free power grid by 2045 makes such improvements particularly essential.

Diffenbaugh and his colleagues found Changes in energy sourcing during the last protracted drought in the west emitted an additional 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from electricity generation in 11 western states between 2001 and 2015. Another study published last year found that hydropower losses would cost California $ 1.9 billion during the last drought. And other western states turned to natural gas or coal to keep electricity on.

Already this year, the California ISO, which operates grids in most of California, called on residents to save electricity to avoid voltage drops and shortages during record heat waves earlier this month. Just as the state’s hydropower capacity is reduced, electricity demand can continue to grow throughout the summer.Extreme heat Overwhelmed California’s power grid last August caused the first power shortage since the 2001 energy crisis, when power traders deliberately manipulated power sources.

In the coming decades, as climate change continues to exacerbate hot and dry conditions, states will also need to work on the use of water to cool nuclear and natural gas power plants. Many thermal power plants in California recycle the water used for cooling, but some power plants, especially the Central Valley, still rely on the use of surface water. Vulnerable During the drought, the California Institute of Public Policy discovered.

“Our systems and infrastructure have been designed and built over the last few decades to work in our old climate,” said Diffenbaugh. “When the Earth warms up and causes extreme conditions, these systems are stretched. Unfortunately, they exceed their capacity.”

“Less water means more gas”: How drought tests California’s stressful power grid | Climate Crisis in the Western United States

Source link “Less water means more gas”: How drought tests California’s stressful power grid | Climate Crisis in the Western United States

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