Hot weather puts pressure on power grid

August 9, 2012 9:53:19 PM PDT
The state's power operator is asking the public to conserve energy and not tax the power grid during the heat wave. The California Independent System Operator says this is the highest power use day of the year, so far.

If you think you're sweating during the heat wave, the folks at Cal ISO, the state's main power grid, are doing twice that. There's only so much power and it's a tough job to move electricity up and down the state as demand rises with the temperature.

"The ISO is not forecasting any blackouts at all, but we are getting into a tight power supply situation because of the heat wave," Cal ISO spokesperson Stephanie McCorkle said.

With supply tight, Cal ISO has issued a statewide Flex Alert starting Friday and lasting through the weekend. Californians are asked to conserve by cutting back electricity usage between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Power reserves must be kept at at least 7 percent to avoid a serious stage one emergency.

"We've had a very large power plant in Southern California suffer from equipment failure last night; that's one of the reasons we triggered a Flex Alert," McCorkle said.

What's helping prevent the rolling blackouts that once plagued California is solar power. So many solar farms have popped up in recent years and rooftop installations have skyrocketed among low and middle income neighborhoods by more than 300 percent.

"That power is exported back to the grid and that goes to the neighboring house, the neighboring business so they can actually use that solar power to turn the AC on, the lights on," Solar Energy Industries Association spokesperson Brian White said.

One of the tips during a Flex Alert is to bump up air conditioners to 78 degrees -- a tough request to ask Californians when it's so hot outside.

"It's not much different than being in the shade outside, so definitely hard thing to do," utility customer Waleska Banegas said.


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