- If conditions worsen, utilities will determine how to alternate outages.
- The extreme heat that scorched the drought-ravaged state over Labor Day weekend will continue for much of the week.
- The broad area of high pressure located over the western interior is expected to weaken by the weekend.
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Record temperatures triggered historic power demands in California on Tuesday, straining the power grid and making rotating blackouts increasingly likely, authorities said.
More than 500,000 customers in California have been given advance warning to prepare for potential rotating outages, often called blackouts, by Tuesday afternoon, Pacific Gas and Electric said. Hours later, California’s power grid operator issued Level 3 energy emergency alerts across the state, with “highly possible” impending power outages. said the network manager.
Elliot Mainzer, CEO of California Independent System Operator, said the “extraordinary heat event we’re experiencing” makes it critical for homes and businesses to reduce energy use after 4 p.m. This means not using large appliances and setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher.
After 7 p.m. Tuesday, the California grid peaked demand at more than 52,000 megawatts, hitting a new all-time high for the state. The state’s maximum capacity is 56,000 megawatts. Despite the troubling numbers, the California network operator noted on Twitter that “conservation is making a difference.”
The system declared an emergency Monday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. A “flexible alert” urging consumers to reduce their energy consumption remained in effect on Tuesday evening, marking seven consecutive days the call to reduce demand has been issued.
“Over the past few days, we’ve seen a positive impact on lower demand thanks to everyone’s help,” Mainzer said. “But now we need a reduction in energy consumption two or three times what we have seen so far.”
THE NEW NORMAL:The dramatic increase in deadly heat waves in the United States is now likely inevitable, but experts say there is still hope
How would rotating claws work?
The California grid operator ended its energy emergency alert for residents of Northern and Southern California at 8 p.m. Tuesday, helping to conserve consumers as a key part of protecting the power grid .
Earlier, the the network operator has issued a level 3 energy emergency alert, prediction of a lack of energy on the network and of “imminent or ongoing” outages.
Parts of Northern California, such as Palo Alto and Alameda, alternated outages to meet state requirements but were able to restore power by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Utilities will determine how to alternate breakdowns. The goal: to keep them as short as possible. Mainzer said that for two days in August 2020, outages affecting around 800,000 homes and businesses lasted from 15 minutes to around 2.5 hours – the first time outages have been ordered in California due to insufficient supply. For almost 20 years.
“We never want to come to that, of course,” Mainzer said. “We want everyone to be ready.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEAT: From heat index to a heat dome to an excessive heat warning
How California Gets Its Power
California’s energy grid primarily involves solar and natural gas during the day, as well as electricity imports from other states. But solar power begins to drop late in the day, the hottest time in some parts of the state. Some of the aging natural gas plants that California relies on for hot weather backup power.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation last week allowing Diablo Canyon Power Plant, the state’s last nuclear plant, to remain open for five more years beyond its scheduled 2025 shutdown.
Weather fuels forest fires
Fire hazard was extreme as the scorching, dry weather turned brush into tinder. Four deaths were reported over Labor Day weekend while more than 4,000 firefighters were battling blazes across the state — 45 new blazes on Sunday alone, said Anale Burlew, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Wildfires could also affect power outages, said Daniel Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
“But one of the big unknowns about this is that we also expect wildfires. And wildfires will force us to shut down some transmission lines, turning them off to prevent wildfires,” a- he told USA TODAY.
Fires threatening areas with power lines above ground could cause “power outages”, said Kammen, where blackouts are scheduled in advance to prevent fires from spreading further.
EVEN MORE EXTREME: Searing heat to roast California and other western states this week
Cities break temperature records
More than 100 daily high temperature records could be broken between Sunday and Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
The Californian capital recorded Monday 117 degrees at Sacramento International Airport, breaking the record temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit, set in 1961.
Sacramento, which hadn’t climbed above 109 degrees the previous September, is expected to hit the top 110 all but one day through Saturday. Fresno in the Central Valley is expected to surpass its September record of 111.
The hottest place in the country, Death Valley, California, is expected to reach 125 degrees on Tuesday, continuing an unprecedented streak of scorching heat and approaching the highest September temperature ever recorded on Earth. The record is 126 degrees.
Forecasters have warned that Death Valley’s famous Furnace Creek thermometer could produce even higher readings.
“It’s not the official thermometer – so it wouldn’t be used to set the records,” said Brian Planz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Las Vegas.
IS THE WORLD READY FOR THE HEAT? Extreme heat waves could soon become commonplace, thanks to climate change. Is the globe prepared?
When will a reprieve come?
AccuWeather reports that the broad area of high pressure over the interior west is expected to weaken later this week. This could allow cooler air to slide in from Canada, through the Northwestern states and into the Rockies.
The cooling effect in Southern California, Southern Nevada and Arizona will be aided by increased cloud cover associated, in part, with Hurricane Kay at sea now off the coast of Mexico, said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson.
Contributor: Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY