The Edward Hyatt Power Plant at Lake Oroville opened in 1967 and has been operating without issue throughout its existence. However, this hydroelectric plant has been shut down for the first time as a direct result of the ongoing drought.
The water levels at Lake Oroville have decreased below operational levels. In total, it is 24% of its total capacity and 10% under the historical average for the month of August. Which means that no more electricity can be generated.
At full capacity, this plant can power 800,000 homes but normally supplies 400 MW. Its loss is going to be felt by the state.
Will There Be Rolling Blackouts?
The state of California was fully expecting this to happen and took the necessary precautions. Thus, this should not result in any blackouts. However, this is not the only reservoir suffering from the drought.
It also doesn’t mean it is easy to compensate for the loss. After all, the state is facing heatwave after heatwave.
As a result, the state is once again asking residents to cut back on water usage to help prevent other shutdowns. The state currently gets 15% of its electricity from hydropower, thus further losses will have an impact.
Additionally, the state is offering cash for conservation. Or in other words, it is willing to pay large energy consumers (businesses) to reduce electricity usage during this crunch time. And well above the normal price.
The rate is currently $2 per kilowatt-hour. For reference, it usually only costs 14 cents per kilowatt-hour used.
This is a pretty clear sign that the state is in trouble due to the plant shutdown. In fact, there’s evidence even with the plant active, the state was still struggling to meet demand.
Does This Mean Hydropower is Unreliable?
Hydropower is the most reliable form of renewable energy available. The fact that the hydroelectric plant has only shut down once in over 50 years is a testament to that. This has nothing to do with hydropower as a source of energy.
However, it has everything to do with this drought and climate change.
Research has linked climate change with the current drought that the western US has been facing. Nothing in the past 1,200 years has even come close to what we are currently experiencing, and there is still no end in sight.
If the drought conditions continue, not only will it further impact hydropower, but it will impact any activity or product that requires water within the region. This even includes agriculture, as the state has already started limiting water for farms.
It’s very likely that this will get worse before it gets better.
Will the Hydroelectric Plant Reopen?
The plant is expected to reopen as soon as the water levels go back to normal. While it’s unlikely to open up for some time, the plant is still fully operational. It really just depends on the water levels.
That said, trying to guess the exact date is impossible. It could be by the end of the month, or it could be next year.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.