The record heat wave searing the West Coast has drained one of California’s largest reservoirs whose hydroelectric plant may be forced to close for the first time this summer, officials said CNN this week. This would be the first time the plant has stopped since it opened more than five decades ago.
Uninterrupted heat and catastrophic drought conditions, both exacerbated by the climate crisis, have rapidly drained water supplies in Northern California’s Oroville Lake and other reservoirs in the West. You can check satellite images showing the reach of the megadrought here.
Because of the “alarming levels,” state officials may have to shut down the Edward Hyatt Power Plant for the first time since it opened in 1967, California Energy Commission spokeswoman Lindsay Buckley told CNN.
The water from Lake Oroville, the second largest reservoir in the state, generates enough electricity to power up to 800,000 homes when operating at full capacity, the outlet reports. In recent days, the water level of the reservoir was around 700 feet (213 meters) above sea level, or about 35% capacity. If it continues to decline at its currently projected rate to 640 feet (195 meters), there will not be enough water to continue operating the Hyatt plant in two to three months.
“If lake levels fall below those elevations later this summer, [the California Department of Water Resources] , for the first time, will stop generation at the Hyatt power plant due to lack of sufficient water to transform the plant’s power generation turbines, ”said Liza Whitmore, public information officer for Oroville’s field division. DWR, in a statement to the press.
An arrest further strained the state’s electricity grid, which is already pushing its limits amid three-digit temperatures. The situation has grown so much that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide heat wave emergency. Thursday allowing companies to temporarily fire backup generators without securing the usual legal permissions. At the same time, the California network operator called for residents to conserve its energy use during peak demand hours to prevent too much stress on the system, which could lead to blackout.
According to u US Drought Monitor, about 85% of the state, even where Lake Oroville is located, experiences an “extreme drought” – the second highest category of drought conditions. This time last year, only 2.45% of California was in an “extreme drought”.
According to the governor’s statement, extreme weather conditions pose “extreme danger” to the safety of California’s residents and properties. Forest fires with “critical” and “extreme” fire warnings have already been spreading throughout the region. Most frightening of all is the fact that summer doesn’t even officially start until tomorrow, so it’s only expected to get warmer by then.