Despite an ongoing and pervasive multi-year drought that has crippled its hydropower supplies, California officials say the state will have enough power on hand to meet demand for electricity this summer.
According to a May 8 Reuters article, the California Independent System Operator (ISO), the independent power grid operator that serves most of the state, announced it will assuage lost hydropower and fulfill demand with new solar power initiatives.
“It is always a challenge to operate the grid under the high loads produced by sweltering summer temperatures, but our analysis shows we have the resources available to meet California’s need this year,” ISO CEO Steve Berberich said in the announcement.
An incredible 96% of California’s new power plants produce solar power; wind power makes up another 3.4%. In addition to increased reliance on renewable energy sources, ISO also plans to import power from other states to help make up for the losses in hydropower.
Thanks to renewable power sources, California will actually have more than enough electricity on hand to power its air conditioning systems all summer long. Air conditioning is notorious for its high energy consumption. Across the U.S., Americans spend about $11 billion each year to power their air conditioners, the Department of Energy has reported.
ISO has predicted that the state’s summer energy use will peak at about 47,188 megawatts as residents crank up the air conditioning, KCET reports; at the same time, the state’s power generating capacity has the potential to produce 54,322 megawatts on the power grid. California’s surplus is the second-largest “operating reserve” its electric grid managers will have had in the last decade.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Californians have nothing to worry about — as the state goes through its worst drought year in recorded history, an increased risk of wildfires threatens electricity transmission lines that could cause blackouts.
But as it becomes increasingly clear that it’s no longer viable to rely on water for generating electricity, California’s move toward other renewable energy sources could set an important precedent for the rest of the country.