California is bracing for rolling blackouts as a result of a 'exceptional heat wave'

California is bracing for rolling blackouts as a result of a "exceptional heat wave," with PG&E warning 500K customers of impending disruptions.

SPRINGS, PALM The state of California On Tuesday, record-breaking temperatures spurred extraordinary electrical consumption in California, straining the power infrastructure and raising the likelihood of blackouts, according to authorities.

More than 500,000 California customers were informed as early as Tuesday afternoon to prepare for unexpected power disruptions, sometimes known as "rolling blackouts," according to Pacific Gas & Electric. After many hours, California's electric grid operator issued a Level 3 emergency alert for the whole state, stating that power disruptions were "highly possible."

The "exceptional heat we are experiencing," according to Elliot Mainzer, CEO of the California Independent System Operator, necessitates that residences and businesses cut energy consumption after 4 p.m. This includes not using big appliances and keeping thermostats at 78°F or higher.

Following 7 p.m. California's electrical system set a record high of more than 52,000 megawatts on Tuesday. The maximum capacity of the state is 56,000 megawatts. Despite the worrisome statistics, California's grid operator tweeted that "saving power makes a difference."

From 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, the system declared a state of emergency. A "Flex Alert" advising consumers to decrease their power consumption remained in place until late Tuesday, making the demand reduction appeal seven days in a row.

"Thanks to everyone's assistance, we've seen a great impact on demand reduction in the previous few days," Mainzer added. "However, we now require a decrease in energy usage that is two or three times what we have seen previously."

California is bracing for rolling blackouts as a result of a 'exceptional heat wave,'
A popsicle and a bag of ice help Michael Williams stay cool on Monday as the mercury in Santa Rosa, California, climbs over 112 degrees. (AP Kent Porter)

How would blackouts that rotated work?

The California grid operator lifted its energy emergency notice for Northern and Southern California residents at 8 p.m. Tuesday, urging customers to minimize their electricity use in order to safeguard the power grid.

The grid operator had already declared a Level 3 energy emergency, forecasting a paucity of electricity across the grid as well as "imminent or existent" power disruptions.

To fulfill state regulations, parts of Northern California, including Palo Alto and Alameda, had alternating power outages, but electricity was restored by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Utilities will choose how the outages will be distributed. The objective is to keep them as brief as feasible. According to Mainzer, power disruptions impacting around 800,000 homes and businesses on two days in August 2020 would range between 15 minutes to 212 hours, marking the first time in over 20 years that California has imposed power outages due to inadequate supply.

"Of course, we never want to get to that position," Mainzer added. "We want everybody to be ready."

Where does California obtain its electricity?

During the day, California's energy grid is mostly made up of solar and natural gas, with some power imported from other states. However, solar output drops near the end of the day, when it is warmest in certain sections of the state. Some of the outdated natural gas facilities that California relies on for backup power have issues in hot weather.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation this week to extend the life of the state's final nuclear power station, Diablo Canyon Power Station, by five years beyond its scheduled shutdown in 2025.

The weather contributes to forest fires.

As the hot, dry weather converted vegetation into tinder, the wildfire threat was great. Over the Labor Day weekend, four people were killed as more than 4,000 firefighters battled blazes across the state, including 45 new flames on Sunday alone, according to Anale Burlew, deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

According to Daniel Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wildfires might potentially cause power shortages.

"However, one of the major unknowns is the possibility of wildfires. And wildfires will force us to shut down some transmission lines in order to avoid wildfires ".

Flames that endanger regions with overhead power lines may result in "rolling blackouts," in which power interruptions are scheduled in advance to prevent fires from spreading further, according to Kammen.

Cities set new temperature records

According to the National Weather Service, more than 100 daily maximum temperature records might be broken between Sunday and Wednesday.

Sacramento International Airport reported 117 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, beating the previous high of 115 degrees Fahrenheit established in 1961.

Sacramento, which had never been beyond 109 degrees Fahrenheit in September before, is predicted to do so all but one day on Saturday. The Central Valley city of Fresno is projected to break its September record of 111 degrees.

The hottest area in the country, Death Valley in California, was expected to hit 125 degrees on Tuesday, extending a historic string of heat waves and likely exceeding the highest September temperature ever recorded on Earth. The record temperature is 126 degrees.

Forecasters cautioned that the famous Furnace Creek thermometer in Death Valley might register even higher readings.

"Because that's not the official thermometer, it's not utilized to set records," said Brian Planz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Las Vegas.

When can we expect a reprieve?

According to AccuWeather, the lengthy region of high pressure over the Inland West will fade by the end of the week. This might allow colder air from Canada to travel across the northwest states and into the Rocky Mountains.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, the cooling impact in Southern California, Southern Nevada, and Arizona will be enhanced by increased cloud cover caused in part by Hurricane Kay, which is currently at sea off the coast of Mexico.

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