Triple-digit heat waves threaten California with massive power outages.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced earlier that the heatwave is expected to be the longest and hottest on record for September. He asked Californians to conserve energy as much as possible.
Sacramento has had more than 40 days of at least 100-degree heat, according to NPR.
The California Independent System Operator (ISO) issued a warning to residents on Tuesday that energy deficiencies were expected as the heat wave reached its peak.
Sacramento reached 116 degrees on Tuesday. The National Weather Service announced an excessive heat warning for the entire week in many parts of California, expecting temperatures to remain in the triple digits. Death Valley could potentially reach 125 degrees.
Last week, officials began asking residents to conserve energy. The state barely avoided blackouts on Monday as Californians used a record-breaking amount of energy, according to the California ISO. On Monday the California ISO asked residents to conserve two to three times more energy to avoid outages.
If conditions worsen, the California ISO may ask that some utilities be temporarily shut off.
Why it’s news
Since the Golden State relies heavily on renewable energy sources, some look at the state’s current predicament as a test for renewable energy.
Solar energy is one of the predominant energy sources in the state, which poses a problem after sunset. Droughts have cut the amount of hydroelectric energy California once produced. Now the state imports electricity from surrounding states when needed.
Excess energy from solar power can be stored in batteries, but even this power source is beginning to run low for Californians.
The heat wave also poses a fire risk for California. Some parts of California have already had their power supply cut to minimize the risk of fires.
Backing up a bit
This isn’t the first time California has suffered power outages. In 2020, similar heat waves caused rolling blackouts in the state. Around 800,000 homes were affected for 2.5 hours.
Anticipating similar blackout risks this summer, Californian officials decided to keep the state’s lone nuclear power plant online. It produced 9% of the state’s electricity.
Though the state is notoriously pro renewable energy, until recently its view of nuclear power was generally negative. However, like many others, Californians have begun reconsidering nuclear options.
Demand for electricity went up 6% last year, according to The New York Times. With increasing demand, countries have been looking to get a little more creative with their energy solutions.
Nuclear energy could potentially fill the gap as a carbon free energy source, providing the necessary energy while renewables catch up to the demand.
The power grid is under the most pressure from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. During this time, the California ISO asked residents to cut back on energy use significantly, including not using lights or major appliances, setting thermostats to 78 degrees, and not charging electric vehicles.