Category Archives: electrical grid

Climate Change Evaporates Part of China's Hydropower

Climate Change Evaporates Part of China’s Hydropower: Scientific American.

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WATER FALL: Unusually low water levels in many Chinese rivers has contributed to a big drop in hydropower production. Image: Tomasz Dunn/Flickr

SHANGHAI — China has set ambitious goals for itself to develop hydropower to help mitigate the risks of climate change, but increasing extreme weather events likely rooted in climate change are now sabotaging the goals’ foundations.

The latest blow came in September, when many major rivers across China ran into an unusual shrinkage, with less than 20 percent water remaining at some stretches. As a result, the nation’s hydroelectric generation dropped by almost a quarter compared with last year. There has been an ever-widening decrease in power each month since July, according to a recent government statement.

As water stocks in key hydro stations decline, the regular dry season is approaching. The resulting stress on hydroelectric generation will last into next year, the statement said.

The Chinese government has yet to explain why the water flows slumped. But experts blamed it on climate change, warning of more future droughts in areas traditionally blessed with water.

If this expectation comes true, it will hamper China’s hydropower sector, which contributes most of the country’s carbon-free electricity. It will also threaten a national strategy in transmitting electricity from resource-rich western China to feed the country’s power-hungry manufacturing sector, most of which is in the east.

For Guangdong province, located on China’s east coast, this threat has already turned into a daily reality. Since its western neighbors this year failed to send as much electricity as usual, the manufacturing hub, with a capacity to produce more than half of the world’s desktops and toys, is forced to conserve electricity.

Turbines left high and dry
China Southern Power Grid, the region’s electricity distributor, attributed the energy shortage partly to the evaporation of hydropower.

As of July, on average, not even half of its installed hydropower capacity found water to turn turbines, the company’s statistics show. And several major hydro stations, built as part of the west-to-east electricity transmission plan, failed to do their jobs.

Goupitan, the largest hydroelectric generator in Guizhou province, reportedly produced only 10 percent of its normal output per day, due to shrinking water flows. And in another hydro station called Longtan, located in the Guangxi region, this year’s missing rain dropped its reservoir’s water level to a point dozens of meters lower than previous years.

“This will definitely negatively affect our hydroelectric production from now to next summer,” said Li Yanguang, who is in charge of public relations in the power station. Asked whether next summer — a regular rainy season — could make the situation better, Li answered in a cautious tone.

“This totally depends on weather,” he said. “We can’t predict that.”

Hydro growth plan sticks despite falling power output
But Lin Boqiang, one of China’s leading energy experts, is confident that the nation’s hydroelectric generation may just go in one direction: getting worse.

“If climate change caused this year’s water flow decreases, which I think it did, and then its impact [on rivers] will be a long term. It will take a toll on China’s hydroelectric output, and also push up the cost of using it,” explained Lin, who directs the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

But still, from Lin’s point of view, such setbacks can’t compete with the Chinese desire for tapping more water power. China, already the world’s largest hydropower user, plans to add another 120 gigawatts by 2015 — a crucial step toward greening 15 percent of its power mix by the end of the decade.

Yang Fuqiang, a senior climate and energy expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, agreed that China’s hydropower plan will stand, though not primarily for energy supply concerns.

Although a climate-resilient approach is factored into the designs of hydro projects, China is still likely to suffer from hydroelectric output decline, says Yang. But the nation can seek more clean energy from the sun or wind, which won’t be affected by climate change, and get the electricity generated elsewhere via a smart grid, he said, referring to an advanced transmission infrastructure China has been building.

So what’s the point of keeping hydro?

“In the future, the importance of hydro projects won’t be on power generation, but on water management,” Yang explained. “It helps control floods, ensure ships transportation and reserve water — a function that [water-scarce] China needs badly.”

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500

Huge blackout takes down Southern California, Mexican border

Huge blackout hits Southern California, Mexican border | Reuters.

Traffic and pedestrians move through a powerless intersection following a power outage in Cardiff, California, September 8, 2011. REUTERS-Mike Blake

Traffic and pedestrians move through a powerless intersection following a power outage in Cardiff, California, September 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

SAN DIEGO | Fri Sep 9, 2011 9:22am EDT

(Reuters) – A massive blackout caused by “human failure” left nearly 5 million people without power in parts of California, Arizona and Mexico on Thursday, and officials said many residents may be out of service for a day or more.

The outage, apparently triggered by an employee who carried out a procedure at a substation in Arizona, snarled traffic on Southern California freeways, knocked out water supplies in parts of San Diego County and Tijuana and sent some elderly residents to emergency rooms.

San Diego International Airport canceled all outbound flights, traffic came to a standstill as the city’s street lights quit and about 70 people had to be rescued by the city’s fire department from stalled elevators.

San Diego schools were ordered closed until Monday as utilities could not guarantee they would be able to turn on the lights in classrooms.

“There was a very major outage, a region-wide outage,” San Diego Gas and Electric President Mike Niggli said. “There’s no doubt this has never happened before to our system.”

But police in California’s second-largest city, located between Los Angeles and the Mexican border, reported no major problems, and hospitals successfully switched to backup power, the Scripps Health chain said.


The ill-fated procedure in Arizona first caused the failure of a high-power line supplying electricity to Southern California before unleashing a domino effect across the Southwest, officials said.

That in turn led to a blockage at California’s San Onofre nuclear energy plant, a second major source of power to the San Diego area, San Diego Gas and Electric said.

San Diego Gas and Electric said in a tweet that all 1.4 million of its customers in the San Diego area were without power. Blackouts also affected 3.5 million people in Baja California, according to local emergency services and state authorities.

The city of Yuma, Arizona, reported that more than 50,000 people had lost power.

“There appears to be two failures here — one is human failure and the other is a system failure. Both of those will be addressed,” said Damon Gross, a spokesman for Arizona utility APS.

By early evening, crews had restored service in the section of the line that triggered the massive event and had begun to restore power to parts of San Diego County.

Electricity returned late on Thursday to the central San Diego neighborhood of Normal Heights, where many families earlier in the evening had embraced the darkness by throwing outdoor barbecue parties on their front lawns.

By 11 p.m., San Diego Gas and Electric reported that power was restored to 165,000 customers in San Diego and Orange counties. But the utility warned that all power would not be restored overnight and urged customers to conserve energy.


Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission said 180,000 customers had been brought back online in Baja California. The commission said it was making progress in getting power back on in state capital Mexicali, Ensenada and Rosarito.

Stuck without refrigeration, employees at the Cardiff Seaside Market, a grocery and specialty food store in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, north of San Diego, started grilling their inventory of fresh steaks and tuna in the parking lot and selling it cooked to passersby for cash.

Meanwhile, a line of about 50 customers waited at the front door for their turn to be led inside by a clerk to do their shopping in groups of two or three at a time.

“It’s real hectic, there’s lines everywhere now. But the customers are happy, everyone’s patient, everyone’s in a good mood, and we’re serving them as quickly as we can,” manager John Shamam, 33, said as he served up a plate of tuna.

Many of the Tweets from San Diego residents revolved around air conditioning. “I’m going to die of heat in this house with no AC!” wrote Ashleigh Marie. “What am I supposed to dooo.”

But San Diego resident Kiersten White tweeted that the power outage “makes me glad I don’t have air conditioning to begin with … nothing to miss!”

Other people were having a harder time. “Trapped outside of our rooms at the hotel,” tweeted Rob Myers, visiting from Washington.

Blackouts hit Mexico’s Northern Baja California state in the afternoon, knocking out power to hundreds of maquiladora export assembly plants in the sprawling industrial powerhouse of Tijuana, south of San Diego.

The blackouts knocked out stoplights at intersections across Tijuana, causing traffic snarl ups, and also cut power to hospitals and government offices. The border crossing at Otay Mesa was closed to all but pedestrian traffic.



Fri Sep 9, 2011 9:05am EDT

 * Blackout left nearly 5 million without power
 * San Onofre nuclear plant remains shut
 (Adds background, quotes)
 NEW YORK, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Power companies in Southern
California restored electricity to most customers by early
Friday after a massive blackout on Thursday left nearly 5
million people in parts of California, Arizona and Mexico in
the dark.
 Although the Sept. 8 outage, apparently caused by human
error, was just a tenth the size of the 2003 blackout that left
about 50 million people without power in the eastern United
States and Canada, it will surely rank as one of the biggest
blackouts in recent history - certainly one of the biggest
caused by human error.
 Sempra Energy's (SRE.N) San Diego Gas & Electric power
company said it restored power to its 1.4 million customers at
3:25 a.m. Western time on Friday.
 That was almost 12 hours after a major electric
transmission system outage in western Arizona and the loss of a
key connection with the 2,150-megawatt San Onofre nuclear power
plant in California resulted in the most widespread power
outage in the company's history, SDG&E said.
 Blackouts also affected 3.5 million people in Baja
California, according to local officials. [ID:nN1E78729HS]
 San Onofre, which is operated by Edison International's
(EIX.N) Southern California Edison, shut on Thursday and
remained out of service early Friday, according to the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
 "Restoring power in the aftermath of the loss of the entire
local grid serving San Diego and southern Orange counties was a
monumental task," David Geier, SDG&E vice president of electric
operations, said in a release.
 "The restoration process, however, has left our local power
grid very fragile and we are asking our customers to conserve
electricity throughout the day Friday," Geier said.
 SDG&E and the California ISO, which operates the power grid
for much of the state, said they would focus on maintaining and
ensuring the integrity of the local power system for the next
few days before determining the sequence of events that led to
the outage and establishing practices and procedures to ensure
that outages such as the Sept. 8 event are not repeated.
 "There appears to be two failures here -- one is human
failure and the other is a system failure. Both of those will
be addressed," said Damon Gross, a spokesman for Pinnacle West
Capital's (PNW.N) Arizona utility Arizona Public Service.
 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Alden Bentley)

Thousands Without Power in East Coast

Thousands Without Power – Hartford Courant.

Hurricane Irene is closing in on Connecticut with heavier bands of rain rolling in, as more than two dozen towns opened shelters and some issued mandatory evacuation orders for low-lying areas.

All air, train and bus service has been suspended, according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and he said he probably would close the Wilbur Cross and Merritt parkways after midnight for fear of wind blowing trees into the roads.

Many businesses will be closed, and some churches have canceled services.

Five hundred Connecticut National Guard troops are in position at armories across the state and will be deployed Sunday morning, Malloy said.

Towns along the shoreline, where the storm was expected to be strongest when it hits Sunday, urged residents to bring three days worth of food, clothing and blankets with them to shelters. Other towns ordered the evacuation of trailer parks and properties prone to flooding from rivers and streams.

Around the state, highway information signs flashed “No Unnecessary Travel. For Your Safety.” Malloy said he might ban non-emergency driving on state highways, if necessary.

At a press briefing in Hartford Saturday night, Malloy said he will determine Sunday if non-essential state workers need to come in on Monday. “We will speak through the media to our state employees tomorrow concerning whether they should … report on Monday,” he said. “We’ll make that call tomorrow.”

He said that as of Saturday night, 28 municipalities had ordered evacuations and 17 had declared states of emergencies. He also said that all air, train and bus service had been suspended except two remaining flights into Bradley International Airport.

Malloy said he intends to address the state again Sunday morning at 7 a.m.

Amtrak also announced that is was suspending service through Sunday in New England, as well as in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.

At 4:30 a.m. Sunday, the storm was to the east of Cape May, according to Fox CT meteorologist Dan Amarante. The storm is expected to reach Connecticut around 11 a.m., with rains tapering off by early to mid-afternoon.

“We may even see some sun before sunset,” Amarante said.

Hurricane Irene hit the North Carolina coast on Saturday morning, and torrential rain from the massive storm reached Connecticut soon after that. Damaging winds from Irene were expected to arrive in the state by about 10 a.m. Sunday, according to Fox CT meteorologist Geoff Fox. He said the storm’s center will hit the coast by about 2 p.m., with rain and wind subsiding by 4 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Fox said that Irene may bring less rain then expected, with downpours clearing out very quickly after the storm passes over the state. But by midnight, flood warnings were announced for New Haven, Middlesex and Fairfield counties.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for New Haven, New London and Fairfield counties, effective until 10 a.m. Sunday.

Officials urged residents in potential flood zones to quickly close up their houses and leave during daylight hours rather than wait to assess the impact of the storm. Residents who decided against evacuation were warned that they probably would be on their own.

As officials wrote on Westport’s Web page: “Based on past experience, there will be those who will refuse to evacuate and prefer to ‘ride out’ the storm. They will do so at their own peril. They should be aware that our emergency services will not respond to last minute evacuation requests as waters rise, risking the lives of first responders.”

Malloy urged residents in mandatory evacuation zones to comply with orders to leave their homes.

“We don’t want to have a loss of life and we don’t want to be putting our forces in harms way at the height of a storm trying to evacuate a person who simply and very easily could have absented themselves,” he said during a 4 p.m. briefing on the status of the state’s storm preparations.

“I understand it may be a burden to spend some number of hours in a shelter but it’s a lot easier burden than some of the others they might have to face,” he added,

Speaking from the state’s Emergency Operations Center at the state armory, Malloy said just about every community fronting western Long Island Sound has issued evacuation orders for at least some of their neighborhoods.

Malloy also had a word of caution for residents who may be watching storm coverage from North Carolina and other points to the south on television.

“I want to remind people that much of what you’ve watched on TV so far occurred in states that were experiencing low tide,” he said. “We expect to experience all of the brunt of this storm at high tide and that could be a serious difference. So please do not draw conclusions by what you’re watching.”

In addition to the National Guard, about 1,100 insurance adjusters also are on hand, ready to make assessments about damages, Malloy said. And mobile cell towers have been moved into the state for recovery efforts.

Malloy urged residents to limit their cellphone use after the storm, in order not to strain a damaged system. He will be keeping an eye on the roads, he said, to determine whether closures are necessary.

“We’re loathe to close [the Merritt and Wilbur Cross] before we have to,” Malloy said, noting that essential personnel rely on the roads. “I would think that by 12 o’clock we’re talking about closure.”

Malloy added that he expects “a lot of road closures” over the next day or so.

New Haven began evacuating homeowners from the city’s Morris Cove section Saturday evening, and had extra police and firefighters standing by with heavy equipment from the National Guard in case emergency rescues become necessary.

Mayor John DeStefano said at 8 p.m. that the city was bracing for a tough night and even more ferocious morning.

“We expect the intersection of high winds, high tide and the storm surge of 4 to 6 feet in the morning,” DeStefano said at an emergency command post at the Nathan Hale School. “People need to prepare for power outages, prepare for flooding. And stay home.”

City officials anticipate that areas around Long Wharf and Union Station may be flooded by mid-day Sunday. They focused evacuation efforts on the Morris Cove section near Tweed New Haven Airport because access is severely limited; for many blocks, Route 337 is the only road out. Twenty-five firefighters and 14 police officers were working in Morris Cove, recommending that homeowners head somewhere safer for the night.

Just a few streets away, Carmine and Felix Betancourt hurried through the rain to pack up a red SUV with their three children, the dog and a tropical fish around 7:30 p.m. They’d put plywood over the windows of their house, and hoped it would get through the storm undamaged.

“My husband’s boss is nice enough to let us stay with him in West Haven. We bought this house four or five years ago, and this is the first time we’ve seen anything like this,” Carmine Betancourt said.

Firefighters went to several hundred Morris Cove homes to issue the evacuation notice; nearly half those people had already left, and most of the others were willing to leave, Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Egan said.

“But there are some who just want to stay,” he said.

On Whalley Avenue and downtown New Haven, most restaurants and shops remained open Saturday night. The windows of a CVS on Whalley were boarded up and a sign announced it was closing early; across the street, a Stop and Shop was open as usual and workers said they expected to back Sunday morning at 6.

City police asked downtown clubs to close a little earlier than usual, and are hoping to keep everyone off the streets from about daybreak through noontime or so.

Sidewalks around Long Wharf were deserted at 7 p.m. Union Station’s doors were locked and a sign advised it wouldn’t reopen until Monday morning. A Yale University shuttle bus was still running students back and forth to downtown, though, and groups of young people were casually walking along Chapel Street underneath umbrellas.

DeStefano made an appeal to homeowners, tenants and merchants across the city to bring in trash cans, lawn furniture and any other loose objects in their yards or parking lots.

“Those things are going to become missiles later tonight,” DeStefano said.

Police Chief Frank Limon encouraged New Haven people to contact the emergency operations center at 203-946-8221 if they need help during the storm.

The city is already setting up a plan for after Irene passes through. Several teams of inspectors will be deployed to check the safety of storm-damaged houses, parks crews will be assigned to cut up fallen trees that are blocking streets, and public works employees will be sent out with pay loaders and dump trucks to clear roadways. DeStefano emphasized that the first mission will be to push debris toward curbs to open roads to traffic; sometime afterward, workers will return to clear away the debris.

Connecticut Light and Power has opened its Emergency Operations Center in Berlin. The company’s communications office announced that about 800 CL&P and contractor line and tree crews are ready to restore power to customers affected by outages. By midnight Saturday, reported outages had increased from about 1,700 to just under 4000. To report outages or check the status of an outage visit or call 800-286-2000

By Saturday afternoon, city officials in Milford were ordering a mandatory evacuation of shoreline neighborhoods, where many houses are built on the beach close to the water. Jonathan Law High School was to be opened as an emergency shelter at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

But the city had already recommended that residents of those areas leave and on mid-day on Saturday many residents of the city’s Silver Sands Beach area had left or were in the process of leaving.

Milford Director of Health Andrew McBride said people began showing up at the shelter at 4 p.m., two hours before it officially opened. He said staff are urging people to stay with family or friends and use the shelter as a last resort. Shortly after 6 p.m., just one person was at the shelter and staff were processing two others. The shelter has a capacity of 71.

“In the past we have opened shelters but people did not show up in great numbers, so having people come before we officially opened was unusual,’ McBride said.

Sandra and Tom Haley were nailing sheets of plywood to the windows of their beach home at Silver Sands. Sandra Haley said they were going to ride out the storm in their home in Ansonia. Their beach house was built in 1905 and has seen plenty of dangerous weather, though flood waters in the past have flowed underneath it and onto the road without damaging the house, she said.

“We’ve lost a few decks and windows in the past but we’ve never had water in the house, we’re hoping we can keep that lucky streak going,” Sandra Haley said.

Down the road at the Blue Heron Store, which sells antiques, artwork and gifts, Maureen Lewis was getting items off the floor in case a storm surge sends water into the store, which she has owned for nine years. She had taped the windows and was planning on putting sandbags in front of the door before heading to her home in Newtown.

Louise Loomis was at the Milford beach house she has had for the past 54 years, putting away anything that could be picked up and thrown around by the strong winds before heading home to Bethany. She, too, has seen plenty of bad weather and developed a system for preparing that includes mounting plywood sheets on pulleys so they can be easily lowered to board up a porch that faces the water.

“You have to put away anything that moves,” Loomis said.

Ray Wasson took pictures of his house at Silver Sands for a before-and-after series of photographs. He said he was planning on riding out the storm at his home and had invited friends over for the evening.

“We’re going to hang out, we’ve got plenty of food and beer and wine,” Wasson said. “It’ll be exciting and hopefully everyone will be safe.”

Wasson said this is could be the third time that serious flooding has hit him. In 1991, flood waters from a major storm were above his front steps and his wife had to be rescued by emergency personnel. “In 1991, it was like a lake down here,” he said.

As of 3 p.m., Saturday, shelters had opened in Bridgeport (Bassick High School and Harding High School), in East Lyme (East Lyme Middle School), North Stonington (North Stonington Elementary School), Colchester (Bacon Academy), Groton (Fitch High School), Stonington (Stonington High School) and other towns. To search for an emergency shelter location, go to

Away from the shore, in Torrington, the frantic, last-minute hunt for flashlights and batteries was fruitless. Those items were long gone from stores.

“The whole town is out of these,” CVS supervisor Mary Beth Lach said after yet another nervous but hopeful man walked and recited the day’s shopping list.

“D batteries?” “No,” she said. “Just double-A.”

“Flashlights?” None. “Radios?” No.

“We’ve had hundreds of people today looking for these,” she said. “We ran out.”

“The D battery is the holy grail,” shopper Gabriel Benet of Torrington said as he paid Lach for kitty litter. “I went everywhere to get some for my radio and flashlight. None anywhere.”

Farther north, in Canaan, a farm stand was trying to get people to buy. A roadside sign urged folks to buy corn from the stand before Irene churns through and damages the crop.

Hurricane Irene was downgraded from a Category 2 storm to Category 1 after it hit land in North Carolina on Saturday. It was carrying sustained winds of 85 mph, and was expected to cross Long Island and hit Connecticut’s shore on Sunday afternoon, packing most of its punch along the shoreline, according to Fox CT meteorologists.

Earlier Saturday, President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for Connecticut and ordered federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts, provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures and to “lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all counties in the State of Connecticut.”

Public transportation, including the CT Transit bus and par transit operations will be suspended in the Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Bristol, New Britain, Meriden, Waterbury and Wallingford areas on Sunday. Shoreline East and Metro-North rail service also will stop.

The Department of Transportation advised motorists to travel for emergency purposes only. As the wind speed increases and rainfall gets heavier, the DOT also asked drivers to reduce their speed.

A hurricane warning remained in effect Saturday for Fairfield, Middlesex, New Haven and New London counties. The National Weather Service has also issued a tropical storm warning for Hartford, Tolland, Litchfield and Windham counties, as well as a flood watch for Litchfield, Hartford, Tolland, Windham, Fairfield, Middlesex, New Haven and New London counties.

The last time a hurricane warning was issued for the state of Connecticut was in September 1985, for Hurricane Gloria.

The Thimble Islands in Branford, one of the areas most prone to hurricane damage, were evacuated around 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. A Branford fire boat and a police boat went from island to island asking residents to vacate or leave the area until the threat of the storm passes.

Those who chose to stay at their homes were required to sign a waiver acknowledging that no emergency personnel would be able to reach them if the weather worsened and they needed help, Deputy Fire Chief Ron Mullen said. Residents were also mandated to list a “next of kin” in case of any injuries, he said.

In Rowayton, a tony coastal enclave of marinas and lushly landscaped homes in Norwalk, residents were out and about early Saturday preparing for the impending storm.

“We’re hoping for the best,” said Nick Cotellassa Jr. of Norwalk as he tied down his boat Saturday morning along the Five Mile River. His boat is called “Reel Lucky” and his wife, Wendy, said she hopes the name signifies the boat’s fate during the hurricane.

The sound of duct tape being unrolled mixed with the occasional hum of a crane as boat owners worked against the clock to secure their vessels or lift them out of the water altogether.

The fear, said Matt Comyns, is that a loose boat will strike others. “The problem is, you can secure your boat the best you can but you have no idea how diligent everyone else is,” he said. “Yes you are concerned about the storm surge and everything else … but that might be the least of our worries. … You just worry about other people’s boats landing on yours.”

It wasn’t just the boats that crews were working to secure. At one marina, manager Philip Koenig was working with a colleague to tie down the Dumpsters in the parking lot. “These things can do a lot of damage,” he said.

In other coastal communities, residents were being asked to vacate while others were being forced out.

Officials in Old Saybrook “strongly encouraged” residents near Long Island Sound to evacuate their homes. They were calling and visiting house-to-house along the shoreline Saturday afternoon.

An evacuation center at the town’s high school was opened. Those residents electing to leave their homes were advised to bring three days worth of clothes, medicine and bedding with them to the shelter. People with pets are advised to leave them on the second floor of their homes with food and water, according to the notice.

In preparation for the tropical storm-force winds, sandbags were made available to residents in Bristol and Old Saybrook on Saturday.

Courant reporters William Leukhardt, Don Stacom and Melissa Pionzio contributed to this story.