California. Hydroelectric power station to close as heat wave drains reservoir

    In an aerial view, barges float at a water level nearly 200 feet below normal at Lime Saddle Marina for Lake Oroville near Paradise, Calif. On Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

In an aerial view, barges float at a water level nearly 200 feet below normal at Lime Saddle Marina for Lake Oroville near Paradise, Calif. On Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
Photo: Justin sullivan (Getty Images)

The record heatwave burning the west coast drained one of California’s largest reservoirs so much that its hydropower plant could be forced to shut down for the first time this summer, officials said CNN this week. It would be the first time the plant has closed its doors since it opened more than five decades ago.

Relentless heat and catastrophic drought conditions, both exacerbated by the climate crisis, quickly depleted the water supply to Lake Oroville in northern California and other western reservoirs. You can view startling satellite images showing the extent of the mega-drought here.

Because of the “alarming levels,” state officials will likely have to shut down the Edward Hyatt power station for the first time since it opened in 1967, California Energy Commission spokesperson Lindsay Buckley told CNN.

Water from Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir, generates enough electricity to power up to 800,000 homes when operating at full capacity, the outlet reports. In the last days, the water level in the reservoir oscillates about 700 feet (213 meters) above sea level, or about 35% capacity. If it continues to drop at its currently projected rate of 640 feet (195 meters), there won’t be enough water to keep running the Hyatt plant in two to three months.

“If lake levels drop below these elevations later this summer, [the California Department of Water Resources] will, for the first time, cease production at the Hyatt power plant due to lack of sufficient water to run the power plant’s power generation turbines, ”said Liza Whitmore, public information officer from the Oroville field division of DWR, in a point-of-sale statement.

A shutdown would further strain the state’s electricity grid, which is already being pushed to its limits amid triple-digit temperatures. The situation has become so dire that California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide heatwave emergency. Thursday allowing companies to temporarily turn on emergency generators without obtaining the usual legal authorizations. At the same time, the Californian network operator called residents to conserve their power consumption during peak hours to avoid overloading the system, which could lead to power outages.

According to United States Drought Monitor, about 85% of the state, including where Lake Oroville is located, experiences “extreme drought,” the second highest drought category. At the same time last year, only 2.45% of California was in “extreme drought.”

Extreme weather conditions pose an “extreme peril” to the safety of residents and properties in California, according to the governor’s statement. Forest fires as well as “critical” and “extreme” fire warnings have already spread throughout the region. Most terrifying of all is the fact that summer doesn’t even officially start until tomorrow, so we wouldn’t expect it to get hotter from here on out.

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