California heat wave nearly broke the power grid

A heatwave that shattered temperature records nearly destroyed California’s congested power grid Tuesday night, bringing it to the brink of rolling blackouts but narrowly averting a widespread blackout.

But those extremes don’t do justice to the most brutal September heatwave in California history, which is expected to last nine days. Even at night, record-low temperatures offer no relief to residents or energy suppliers. And coastal areas – often a haven from the heat – have also been hit by searing temperatures.

All of this offers an unsettling preview of the state’s future struggles with extreme heat amid a warming climate.

“This will be essentially the worst September heatwave on record, certainly in Northern California and arguably for the state as a whole,” he said Daniel Swain, a UCLA climatologist. “Given their duration and extreme magnitude, it could be one of the worst heatwaves on record any month. … There really won’t be any significant relief in this part of the state until at least Friday or Saturday.”

The Bay Area and Sacramento broke records Tuesday and experienced muggy lowsNight staying in the high 70’s. Temperatures in the 100s set records in parts of Southern California and the humidity made already grueling conditions worse.

The California Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s power grid, updated emergency alerts Tuesday afternoon, warning residents to “be prepared for rotating power outages” after narrowly escaping that finding on Monday.

According to ISO, the grid reached a peak demand of 52,061 megawatts on Tuesday evening, “a new all-time record”. ISO officials said that despite the strain, they had not ordered any “load sheds” that cut power, thanks to conservation efforts. However, some cities — including Alameda, Palo Alto and Healdsburg — reported temporary power outages in some areas at the direction of the grid operator.

Unprecedented demand and oppressive temperatures across much of the state have put a constant strain on the power grid. The drought has reduced hydroelectric power, an inexpensive resource used to quickly ramp up electricity. Solar energy levels off in the evening as temperatures drop, but Californians continue to crank up their air conditioning.

The challenges are a test of how the state can balance the system when it’s under pressure, said Jan Smutny-Jones, chief executive of trade group Independent Energy Producers and former chairman of the ISO board.

“Our resource base has changed, how it works has changed. We don’t have a lot of surplus in the system, so if something goes wrong we have other resources to fall back on,” Smutny-Jones said. “I think that’s why you have the ISO quite concerned about the ability to meet demand.”

The West has long experienced episodes of extreme temperatures, but studies have shown that human-caused climate change is making heat waves longer, more frequent, and more intense.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to boost energy supplies by temporarily allowing power plants to work overtime and using backup generators. And for the first time for the state, the ISO required activation of temporary backup generators used by the Department of Water Resources in Roseville and Yuba City.

An excessive heat warning remains in effect for much of California through Friday, with temperatures expected to hit triple digits in many regions. Forecasters predict the heat will ease over the weekend as the system shifts east.

Northern California posted historic highs Tuesday, including downtown Sacramento. who met 116 degreesand thus surpassed a nearly century-old record.

The low temperature at Sacramento Executive Airport on Tuesday morning broke the record for September with 73 degrees. according to the National Weather Service. The lows in downtown Sacramento and Stockton set all-time records for warm temperatures at 77 and 75, respectively.

“It’s a really big problem if the overnight lows don’t cool down a lot,” said Bill Rasch, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. “That increases the risk of heat, especially for underserved communities.”

He said he expects historic temperatures across the region Tuesday night through Wednesday.

For the record:

9:48 am 7 Sep 2022An earlier version of this story said Sacramento was poised to set a record for most consecutive days with temperatures of 100 degrees or higher. The city is expected to break a record for most days in a calendar year with 100 degrees or more.

Sacramento is also expected to break a record for most days in a calendar year with 100 degrees or more, Rasch said. If temperatures reach those levels by Friday as predicted, the city will reach 44 days this year, surpassing a 1988 record of 41.

Six Bay Area cities set all-time records Tuesday, including Santa Rosa at 116 and Napa at 115, according to the National Weather Service.

In San Francisco, conditions caused delays for BART trains, which were forced to continue slower speedsbecause hot tracks can cause dangers such as derailments.

Livermore, an inland city in Alameda County, peaked at 116 on Tuesday, tying the all-time record high According to National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Gass, set Monday. He said Bay Area temperatures could drop slightly on Wednesday, but are likely to rise again on Thursday.

“This heat event is a marathon,” Gass said.

Southern California is also preparing for a midweek surge. Burbank is expected to hit 110 on Wednesday, breaking a record 106 set in 1944. Woodland Hills is expecting 110 degrees on Wednesday, beating the 109 set in 1955. Lancaster is expected to match its record 109 degrees.

Temperatures are expected to level off this weekend as weather forecasters prepare Impact of Hurricane Kay, including scattered showers and increased humidity on Saturday and Sunday. Mark Moede, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said this will be an “extraordinary” weather event: a change from hot and dry to warm and wet in 48 hours or less.

“In terms of the weather, it will be a very dynamic end of the week,” said Moede. California heat wave nearly broke the power grid

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