Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Drought dries up California hydropower

Bobby Magill in Climate Central: As California’s historic drought dries up the state’s water supplies and withers its crops, it’s also shaking up the way electricity is produced there. There’s so little water available in the state’s reservoirs that California’s ability to produce hydropower has been cut in half, while its use of renewables and natural gas power has spiked, a U.S. Energy Information Administration report published Monday shows.

Normally, 20 percent of California’s power comes from hydroelectric sources. But not anym
ore. For the first six months of 2014, only 10 percent of the state’s electricity was hydropower, roughly between 900,000 megawatt hours in January and 2.3 million megawatt hours in June, EIA data show. The average hydropower generation for January is  about 2 million megawatt hours, and nearly 4 million megawatt hours in June.

Most of California has been mired in an extreme or exceptional drought since 2011, a phenomenon that recent studies show has a complicated connection to climate change. As of the latest drought monitor, more than 58 percent of California is experiencing the most intense drought conditions, while the entire state is currently seeing some level of severe or extreme drought.

Nearly all of California’s reservoir levels are below average for this time of year, with the water level of Lake Shasta, one of the state’s largest reservoirs, currently sitting at 42 percent of historical average, said California Department of Water Resources spokesman Ted Thomas....

A bear ornament on the downstream side of the Mulholland Dam in Los Angeles. National Park Service photo

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