California’s Planned Blackouts

Jim Meigs explains.

I just read that they’re cutting power to the Berkeley campus, which could be a disaster for researchers who need to keep things in the fridge, if they don’t have backup generators.

And you know what isn’t the problem? Climate change. Or at least not anthropogenic climate change. Drought is the natural state of affairs for the place. The 20th century was unusually wet, and a lot of policy decisions were made on the assumption that this was a normal state of affairs.

We’re on So Cal Edison, not PG&E, but we’ve heard that SCE might be planning the same thing. Unclear if we’ll be affected if they do.

[Update Saturday morning]

Californians learn that solar panels don’t work during power blackouts. More policy idiocy, and they’re compounding it by requiring every new home to have them. I can’t believe the state I’ve lived in for four decades, with such an innovative history, has become so effing stupid.

[Bumped]

25 thoughts on “California’s Planned Blackouts”

  1. I remember reading years ago how the upper middle class in India all had generators because the power was iffy much of the time. Good to see California has chosen a 20th Century developing third world nation as its aspirational role model and vision for the future.

    Now if the [expletive deleted] Californicans would just leave that mindset back there when they escape the stupidity they made and head elsewhere. Or maybe move to Canada, where it seems sort of thinking that would be welcomed.

    Are Honda generators any good at charging Teslas? And aren’t windy days good for those windmills in places like Altamont Pass, or is all that power going to waste?

    1. Californication: (n) (1) Describes a condition when windmills are locked or allowed to free spin w/o coupling to a generator because the downstream grid is disconnected. (2) Diversion of electrical power from wind or solar to neighboring states because the in-state power grid is purposely brought down.

      1. You mean electricity rates in the rest of the Western US may go lower because of this stupidity? It’s about time California “gave something back” to the places (Nevada, the Navaho, Utah, Wyoming, etc.) that generate their electricity for them.

        And do they shut off the hydro dams, too?

        1. Sure. Why not? Especially since many of those source providers are owned and operated on tribal land by native Americans. If the Californicators don’t like that they can try suing them in tribal courts. Love to see what the LA Times makes of that.

  2. In related news, Musk is promising his $80k model 3’s won’t (in the future) be impacted by these problematic blackouts because he’s outfitting all the public charging stations “in affected regions” with Tesla Powerpacks. So a big battery to backup the grid, so you can continue to charge the little battery in your car. In case you find yourself unable to do so in your garage.
    Well. He’s got all the bases covered.
    What’s the current price of a gallon of gas in LA?

    California: Showing the world how to become SMOD-ready.

    1. Well, that’s great…as long as the batteries still have charge. I would bet that Tesla drivers will do what everyone else does in the face of shortages, and run there to top up their cars…and then there’s no more juice.

  3. What are the internet companies going to do if they lose power? You have Facebook out there, along with ebay, Paypal, Google, and many others. Do they have backup generators? If so, for how long? They would have to keep buying gas. I don’t know how much gas is in the rest of California, but in Los Angelas, it is $6.00 a gallon.

    California should do some controlled burns, and some forest thinning.

    1. The servers for Apple are located in places like Prineville, Ore., where stupidity like this just doesn’t happen. Where much of the electricity comes from the BPA (Bonneville Power Admin.) and they know how to clear brush from the power lines. I’m sure the rest are spread out also.

      It’s the digital “masters of the universe” who manage the systems who are going to be agilely coding by lamps burning whale oil.

    2. Robert, I’ve now heard the $6 figure multiple times, but as noted, normally reliable sources indicate closer to $4.25. Do you live in LA?

      1. No, I live in N.C I think it is $2.24 a gallon here. I haven’t checked in a couple of days. I saw the $6.00 figure in a news headline.
        I saw in the comments that these outages could cause fires. But I also think it might make some business leave the state. If you have thousands of servers, and you need a generator to run those servers, then that is going to cost a lot of money to buy gas for those generators.

        If demand for gas goes up because of all those emergency generators are running, then gas prices could go up in California. You might see gas reach $6.50 a gallon, or higher. Now if a company has 10,000, or more servers, then that’s going to cost a lot of money. So you might see some companies move their servers out of state.

        1. In that scenario, wouldn’t a company could buy gas and truck it in? I dont know what the price would be but it wouldnt be what’s paid at the pump.

          1. The gasoline would probably have to be inspected at the border and get tied up for months, unless of course California has made that some kind of felony.

  4. With a few thousand generators or more running, eventually one will malfunction and start a fire. Especially ad-hoc setups. Then, only certified “rich guy/party member in good standing” generators will be allowed.

    1. Several deaths from carbon monoxide are practically guaranteed.

      Maintaining system stability is probably tricky. If they’re not careful, people that matter will lose power.

  5. It occurs to me that this policy could easily be thwarted. What if only one of the tens of thousands of affected people were to make it known that if PG&E turns off power because of the danger of wildfires a wildfire would be deliberately set? This would change the equation from a possibility of a wildfire to the certainty of one. It doesn’t seem too unrealistic that of the tens of thousands affected one would be willing to accept the admittedly high risks involved to himself and others.

    This is all hypothetically, of course.

    1. I have suggested that people could change California’s energy policy by doing just that. Unfortunately, it would require the intersection of several unlikely things to make the threat believable.

      * The existence of a man who is angry that he’s sitting in the dark missing a playoff game.
      * A significant blood alcohol level.
      * Possession of matches or a BIC lighter, or access to them.
      * Some form of transportation to gain access a remote area, such as a powered, wheeled vehicle.
      * An even higher blood alcohol level and access to combustible materials in his backyard.

  6. Most residential solar systems in Calif are “grid-tie” and will not output power unless there is functioning grid to put power into. This was legislated back in the 1990s to prevent “islanding”, where isolated segments of the grid would have power and be a potential safety hazard to line workers.

    1. A properly installed system wouldn’t be any more of a hazard than a backup generator. The necessary batteries, required maintenance and installation would raise the installed cost considerably without increasing the virtue signalling utility.

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