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California’s Transition of Power Falters Amid Triple-Digit Temperatures, Prompting Use of ‘Emergency’ Gas-Fired Generators

Craig Bannister | September 6, 2022 | 11:14am EDT
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(Getty Images/Drew Angerer)

This week, as California faces the greatest threat of blackouts of the year, the state has increased its use of gas-powered power generators.

With temperatures topping a hundred degrees on Monday, the state issued a power grid emergency in the early evening hours. The strain on California's power grid is expected to intensify this week as school starts and workers return to the office.

Blackouts have become more likely due to California’s transition to “green” energy sources, as The Sacramento Bee explains:

“California’s increasing reliance on solar power and other renewable sources has made the grid susceptible to blackouts in the early evening, when solar panels go dark but the weather stays hot. The state had two straight nights of rolling blackouts in August 2020 and nearly had a repeat during the July 2021 heat wave.”

As it scrambled to keep the lights on Monday, California activated gas-fired “temporary emergency power generators,” the state’s Department of Water Resources reported:

“This evening, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) requested the activation of temporary emergency power generators deployed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) in Roseville and Yuba City. In total, the four generators can provide up to 120 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the statewide power grid during extreme heat events like we are experiencing today. That’s enough electricity to power up to 120,000 homes. This was the first time that the generators were activated since they were installed last year.”

As NBC Bay Area explains, California’s ability to meet its energy needs using solar power declines as daytime comes to an end:

“California's energy grid runs on a mix of mostly solar and natural gas during the day, along with some imports of power from other states. But solar power begins to fall off during the late afternoon and into the evening, which is the hottest time of day in some parts of the state.”

“Ironically, unsettled weather also brought the chance of thunderstorms over Southern California and into the Sierra Nevada, with a few isolated areas of rain but nothing widespread,” the local affiliate reports.

NBC Bay Area went on to invoke, and warn of, the specter of climate change, citing unnamed “scientists”:

“The storms also could produce lightning, forecasters said, which can spark wildfires.”

“Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.”

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