Grid operators in California and Texas are struggling to keep up with the overwhelming demand for electricity this week as the spreading heat wave sweeps the western United States
From northern Montana to Southern California, the range of high temperature monitoring and warning exceeds 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers). According to the National Weather Service, the temperature in Sacramento is expected to reach 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius) later this week. Dallas may score a sultry 98 points.
Texas grid operators said they don’t expect a power shortage on Tuesday night. But they asked residents to reduce electricity consumption before Friday to avoid power outages, because too many factories are shutting down for maintenance. California officials warned that electricity demand may exceed supply later this week.
Bob Oravec, a forecaster at the US Weather Forecast Center, said: “These temperatures are really hot, and the potential record high temperatures will really not be interrupted before Sunday.”
The scorching weather marked the first high temperature-related stress test on the US power grid this year, as a historic drought swept through the western half of the United States. Last summer, California had a continuous power outage for nearly a year. Four months after the Texas energy crisis in February, a deep freeze paralyzed power plants. Most areas of the state were out of power and more than 150 people died.
According to the California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state’s power grid, in California, Thursday’s power supply may be the tightest, when demand may exceed 43 GW, or about 3.4 GW higher than expected supply. The operator said that although it often relies on electricity from neighboring countries during the heat wave, it expects the high temperature this week to spread to the Canadian border, restricting imports.
California officials have ordered utilities to prepare additional power supplies and giant batteries for this summer, but they warned that the system may still face shortages.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Texas grid operator said that despite the sharp drop in demand, the grid remained stable. The company reports that it has approximately 3.4 GW of power reserves, which is equivalent to an additional supply margin of approximately 10%. The Texas Electric Power Reliability Council stated that if the reserve is less than 2.3 GW, it will initiate the first phase of the grid emergency, and if it is less than 1 GW, it will start to turn off power.
In the case of increased demand, power plants with a capacity of up to 10.6 GW (enough to power approximately 2.1 million households) were unexpectedly shut down for maintenance, resulting in tight supply. Approximately two-thirds of outages are natural gas, coal, and nuclear power plants. The grid operator said that the rest is wind and solar.
Texas grid officials are working hard to understand why so many factories have unexpectedly failed. The number of out-of-service generators is three times what they expected at this time of year.
“This is very worrying,” Ercot’s senior director Warren Lasher (Warren Lasher) said at a briefing on Monday. “It’s unclear why we see so many units offline.”
In the warmer months of Texas, both wind farms and solar farms tend to generate more electricity. But their output fluctuated throughout the day. This may lead to tight supply. It includes early afternoon—when heat builds up and the wind weakens—and at sunset, when the light recedes and takes away the sun.
Texas state lawmakers recently approved power market reforms. Measures include requiring power plants to ensure that they can operate in extreme weather and providing state-backed financial assistance to grid operators and utilities that have been hit by soaring wholesale electricity prices.
“All that needs to be done is to repair the Texas grid,” Republican Governor Greg Abbott told reporters when signing legislation last week.
We will see a big warm-up mid-to-end this week. Overheating warnings were issued in most areas from Thursday to Saturday. The high point will be between 100-113°, and the low point will be warm at night.
According to the Department of Meteorology, Houston reached 100 degrees on June 13, the earliest temperature reached in a decade. This may herald an unusually hot summer, as the city usually cannot tolerate such heat until August.
The Bureau of Meteorology said Tuesday that in the west, high temperature warnings and warnings from Phoenix to Northern California will continue until Saturday night. Later this week, the temperature in California’s Central Valley may rise to 113 degrees. It may reach 118 in parts of Arizona.
The drought that has engulfed most of the region will only make the situation worse. Drought raises temperature because solar energy is used directly to heat the air instead of evaporating water in the soil. This in turn will dry the air and exacerbate drought.