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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

California’s power grid must prepare for climate change

“We are a few years ahead of Texas, but we still have a lot more planning to go,” mentioned one native knowledgeable from UC San Diego.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The widespread failure of the power system in Texas this week has raised questions on how ready California is relating to spikes in demand for power.

Experts say that the rising and unpredictable extreme-weather impacts of climate change will proceed to position a pressure on the power grid. 

Here in California, excessive warmth and winds have led to rolling outages in years previous to keep away from over-taxing our power grid, partly to forestall wildfires from sparking.

It is a important situation of lagging provide and hovering demand that in Texas this week has had lethal penalties.

“This one changes the game because it was so much bigger, so much more severe. We’ve seen the impact it’s had,” mentioned Bill Magness, CEO of ERCOT, or the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

This game-changer of a winter storm within the Lone Star State resulted in a catastrophic failure of its electrical system, with hundreds of thousands of Texans pressured to go days with out power in freezing situations.

RELATED: Former San Diegans in Texas have power once more, however provides are scarce

“Power systems are always going to be strained by extreme weather,” mentioned Dr. Michael Davidson, an assistant professor in Engineering and Public Policy at UC San Diego.

He says that climate change goes to extend the degrees of those excessive climate occasions throughout the board, from winter storms and report rainfall to excessive winds and warmth waves. 

“All of those things we are going to have to plan for and our power system is unfortunately very vulnerable to those types of situations,” Davidson mentioned.

Davidson added that we have to proceed de-carbonizing our power techniques, whereas additionally making our power grids extra dependable to stay with the unavoidable, and unpredictable, results of climate change.  

“And we can do both of these but we need to plan for those events,” Davidson cautioned. 

Here in California, a lot of this planning revolves round an rising reliance on renewable energies, similar to wind and photo voltaic.

“The wake up call is there,” mentioned Dr. Asfaw Beyene, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University.

Like Davidson, Beyene pointed to the necessity to enhance the reliability of our electrical system.

This contains, for instance, investing in additional battery storage to seize photo voltaic power, with the intention to be out there to make use of when demand on power unexpectedly rises: a way of by-passing any blackouts.

“So that we will store energy, then take it back when those resources are not available,” Beyene mentioned.

One key distinction between California’s power system and that of Texas: whereas the Golden State is interconnected with different grids within the western U.S., permitting us to share with neighboring states, Texas is a “power island,” not linked with different states’ grids as a back-up if wanted.

“We are a few years ahead of Texas, but we still have a lot more planning to go,” Davidson added.

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