Can Solar Power Supplement Loss of Hydroelectric Power Created by California Drought?

By December 17, 2015civic, GOVERNMENT, solar

For over a hundred years now, California has relied on hydroelectric power to supplement its energy production. In fact in 2014, hydroelectric power plants produced a tremendous amount of clean, renewable energy for the state — almost 14,000 megawatts, or 6 percent of the total in-state electricity generation.

Most hydroelectric power in California relies on snowmelt, but the ongoing drought has negatively impacted the situation. Raging rivers fed by snowmelt from high mountain ranges have turned the state’s turbines for many years. But current drought conditions are putting that all at risk.

According to Andrew McMillan, operations manager for Southern California Edison’s hydro plant between Yosemite and King’s Canyon, the drought has had a major impact on the amount of water available for sustainable power generation. Southern California Edison lost 80 percent of its hydroelectric power this year due to the lack of water.

This drought won’t last forever but scientists predict that drought periods will only increase in length and severity due to the ongoing effects of climate change. In order to keep California’s grid sustainable and resilient, power companies have turned to alternative sources of clean energy.

When A Door Closes, a Window Opens

According to  Steven Greenlee, spokesman for the California Independent Systems Operator, this four-year drought has caused hydroelectricity production to drop by 36 percent. In fact, California is looking at the largest drop in hydroelectricity in 10 years. What is the logical step for power companies? Turning to solar energy to make up the difference of course.

Solar power is a great alternative to hydroelectric power for many reasons, even when there’s no drought going on. In fact, the many advantages of solar power have even led the federal government to increase its investment and support for solar technology in the United States.  

Solar relies on an energy source that is always available, unlike hydroelectricity, and so Californian power companies are repositioning to invest more heavily in it. The transition to solar power increases California’s power grid in terms of both reliability and diversity, ensuring that no matter what environmental crises are facing the state, the supply of energy to its residents will continue uninterrupted.

A Bright Future

According to Grist.Org, “Solar power has exploded in California over the past two years as a number of enormous utility-scale projects have come online.” In fact, drought conditions have had an unexpected positive results when it comes to generating solar power. Changes in the climate have had effects in the atmosphere that have made solar power an even more efficient and attractive option in California.

Based on the findings of Clean Power Research, an organization that measures solar radiation for clients in the solar power industry, “the past four years of drought have boosted wintertime sunshine substantially, depending on the location.”

Solar power’s reliability makes it a great choice for clean energy generation, and with the added sunshine it’s become an easy choice for California power companies.  

If you’d like to find out how installing solar panels on your roof can help you drive your electric bill down to zero, contact us today for a free quote.