Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Droughts are slashing California’s hydroelectric power plant. Here’s what that means for clean energy.

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Hydropower often comes under fire because of the environmental impact, because dams disrupt ecosystems. In fact, California currently does not count large hydropower plants in its renewable energy targets. But regardless of how it’s categorized, hydropower is a alternative for lower emissions to fossil fuels.

In times of high voltage on the grid, the reduced reliability of hydropower is already causing problems, says Brian Tarrojaan energy researcher at the University of California, Irvine.

Last year, the Bootleg fire in neighboring Oregon struck several transmission lines in California at a time when rising temperatures were increasing demand for electricity. Running hydropower plants at their drought-depleted capacity while ramping up natural gas plants was barely enough to keep the flow on

These problems are likely to continue, Tarroja says. Climate change changes rainfall patterns and causes higher temperatures, even if total precipitation remains constant. The effects are likely: chalong hydropower in the coming decades.

Places with a lot of hydropower may need to start planning for the effects of climate change on energy generation. That’s not just California: droughts in Brazil and China have it too endangered hydropower capacity in recent years.

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