California Dam Crisis Leaves Power Market Short of Big Hydro
A crippled spillway is threatening to submerge an entire region of northern California after a recent deluge of rain. And the state’s power market may already be feeling it.
As state officials rush to repair an emergency spillway for the Oroville dam — just 150 miles (241 kilometers) north of San Francisco — an 819-megawatt hydropower plant, capable of supplying about 600,000 homes with electricity, remains shut there. That’s the equivalent of two natural gas-fired power plants that will need to kick into gear elsewhere in California to make up for the lost supplies, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Almost 200,000 people have been forced to evacuate as the damaged spillway threatens to flood an area that’s also home to about a dozen power plants, based on data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The boost in gas demand resulting from their shutdown would come just as California’s supplies of the power-plant fuel are constrained. The Aliso Canyon gas storage field outside of Los Angeles has been closed since a massive leak in late 2015, and operators are still waiting for permission from the state to restart.
“Gas generation probably needs to pick up the slack from what you lose at the Oroville Dam,” said Het Shah, an energy analyst at BNEF. “You need two gas facilities to fill in that gap.”