Drought, Scorching Temps Threaten Electrical Grid in Multiple Western States
The electrical grids of multiple western states are being threatened by increasing demands, shorter supply, scorching heat, and historic drought, an NBC News report reveals.
Record-high temperatures and historic drought conditions are impacting broad areas of the American West, NBC News’ Josh Lederman reported. These factors, combined with increasing demands for electricity, are putting power grids in Oregon, California, New Mexico, and other states at risk of failure.
“From generation at power plants to the transmission lines that carry electricity to homes and businesses, just about every part of the power system performs worse in conditions that are intensely hot and dry,” Lederman wrote. “That raises significant questions about the nation’s readiness for a future in which, climate scientists say, global warming is expected to make extreme weather events even more common.”
Ernst & Young digital grid consultant, Omar Al-Juburi, told NBC News, “We’re going to get to a point where the current infrastructure and the current way of operating is going to continue to be strained by these extreme heat waves.”
Temperatures in Portland, Oregon, hit 116 degrees last month — a record high — causing a Portland-area power generation company to install extra cooling equipment. Bob Jenks, Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board told NBC that new home buyers in the area are driving up the demand and could lead to further straining of the electrical grid in future heat waves.
Dropping lake levels across the West are drying up riverbeds and contributing to the increasingly difficult challenge of generating enough electricity. Cooling water is often a requirement for the efficient production of electrical energy in coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants.
“Researchers have shown that drought threatens coal and nuclear power plant water supplies in the Upper Midwest, and the southeastern U.S., in New England as well as the western U.S.,” Joe Smyth of the Energy and Policy Institute told NBC. Low water levels are also impacting hydroelectric power generation on the Colorado River.
“Less water often results in less water running through turbines and creating electricity,” Tracey LeBeau, who runs the U.S. Department of Energy’s Western Area Power Administration. “Right now, in many regions, power is in higher demand because of the higher temperatures. So it’s really a double whammy for us.”
In Texas, the state’s main energy grid run by ERCOT, issued a directive to consumers to conserve energy in the afternoon in mid-June, Breitbart Texas reported. The conservation noticed followed multiple generations stations going offline for maintenance and an unexpected early heatwave.
“We will be conducting a thorough analysis with generation owners to determine why so many units are out of service,” ERCOT Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson said in a written statement. “This is unusual for this early in the summer season.”
Read more about the potential strain on the western-U.S. electrical grid at NBC News.