Cal-ISO predicts fewer, if any, blackouts this summer

April 22, 2011 7:44:31 PM PDT
The power outlook for this summer is pretty good according to California's grid gurus. Friday they showed off their more scientific and efficient system for sending electricity around the state to the places that need it most at that moment.

The California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) manages 80 percent of the state's power grid. It's their job to keep the lights on for 30 million residents and avoid a repeat of those famous rolling blackouts 10 years ago. The chances of that happening are next to nothing this year.

"We look good for the summer, so we don't expect any problems," said Cal-ISO Chief Operating Officer Steve Berberich. "In fact, our analysis shows 1 percent or less chance of any kind of load blackouts."

Cal-ISO expects a mild summer thanks to a very wet winter, which saw snowpacks reaching 160 percent above average, there will be plenty of hydro-electricity. California typically gets 12 percent of its power from hydro.

"We are getting a lot of hydro now," said Berberich. "The good news for us is we expect to get hydro well through the summer."

Also helping avoid blackouts is Cal-ISO's new high-tech center. Since renewable energy is becoming a bigger chunk of California's power portfolio, it's important for grid managers to see when weather isn't cooperating. If there's no breeze for the wind turbines or sun for the solar panels, they can easily direct traditional power to those areas.

Because Gov. Jerry Brown just signed into law mandating that California start getting one-third of its energy through alternative sources, an updated grid is all the more important.

"We want to get 40 percent or more, and as we do that, that's obviously going to have implications on the existing fleet, and we're going to be replacing some of those older plants," said California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller.

But a high-tech grid and wet winter are no guarantee things will go smoothly this summer. Predications don't always come true. There's always the chance of a fire or earthquake blowing out a transmission line, or having a prolonged heat wave that increases demand.


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