California’s Ongoing Suicide Watch

Even Jerry Brown admits that California’s newly mandated $15 an hour minimum wage is economically unsound, but we’re doing it anyway, Because Justice! Or something.

But it may not matter much, because California businesses may not have enough . . . electricity. Two headlines from the past week tell the story. First, you may have heard about a massive natural gas leak out near Newhall over the past few months. This was not a leaking production field, but was a huge underground gas storage formation that Southern California Edison draws from in the summer to run natural gas “peaker” plants when electricity demand soars during hot weather. Now that the leak is filled, the state has ordered than the underground formation not be refilled for the time being. Which may lead to:

California Braces for Summer Blackouts Due to Porter Ranch Gas Leak

State officials warn that Southern California could face as many as 14 days of scheduled blackouts this summer because of depleted reserves of natural gas caused by the massive leak in Aliso Canyon.

The canyon in the hills above Porter Ranch is a crucial gas storage facility, supplying 17 power plants in the Los Angeles Basin. But the four-month leak that began in October left the facility at one-fifth of its capacity and new injections of gas have been prohibited until all of its wells have passed comprehensive tests.

Officials estimate the storage facility won’t be back on line for months, leaving local power plants without a key source of natural gas.

“These pipelines also cannot transport gas fast enough to meet the hour-by-hour or changing demands of power plants during the summer when electricity demand peaks,” said Mark Rothleder, vice president of the California Independent System Operator, one of four agencies that warned of the blackouts in a draft report released Tuesday.

The blackouts would probably be similar to those that the region experienced during the energy crisis more than a decade ago. Utilities distributed the outages by turning off one block of power for a short period of time, then moving the cutoff to a different block, based on a technical analysis.

Welcome back to Bolivia. Well, at least we have all that new solar power to fill in the gap, right?

What Will California Do With Too Much Solar?

By Lauren Sommer, KQED Science

Solar energy records are falling left and right in California these days, as the state steams ahead toward its ambitious renewable energy goals.

But the success of solar has brought about a hidden downside: on some perfectly sunny days, solar farms are being told to turn off.

That’s because in the spring and fall, when Californians aren’t using much air conditioning and demand for electricity is low, the surge of midday solar power is more than the state can use.

It’s becoming a growing concern for those running the grid at the California Independent System Operator. At their Folsom headquarters, a team continually manages the power supply for most of the state, keeping the lights on for some 30 million people.

“It’s constantly solving a constant problem, meaning you’re always trying to balance,” says Nancy Traweek, who directs system operations for the grid.

In the past, balancing California’s electric was fairly straightforward. The power supply was constant, coming from natural gas and nuclear power plants that put out a steady stream of electricity.

But the growth of solar and wind power has thrown a wild card in the mix. The sun and wind are much less predictable.

“All of a sudden you have a major cloud that comes over a solar field,” Traweek says, and that causes the solar power to drop off.

“That [power] needs to come from somewhere else immediately,” she says.

So grid operators have to keep the natural gas plants running in the background. If they’re turned off, many take four to eight hours start up again.

California’s highest demand for electricity also happens right as the sun goes down, when Californians come home from work and lights turn on. Grid operators need natural gas power plants at the ready to meet that peak and to fill the gap that’s left by solar power.

Such geniuses we have running California. Thank goodness we’re building high-speed rail. It’ll only take three times as long at twice the price of Southwest Air Lines to get up and down the state.

P.S. The necessity of conventional backup power for “renewables” is why the various mandates for expansion of renewable energy won’t translate into commensurate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It will be an amusing day when the data comes in showing that renewables have failed to reduce emissions, and everyone will be scratching their heads why. Green Weenies all around.