Solar and wind power is variable by nature. To meet the California goal of 33% renewable energy by 2020, backup power is needed, primarily natural gas. But California doesn’t have the right mix of power now, a situation that will worsen because of new federal rules banning use of ocean water for cooling steam turbines. Nineteen power plants will be shut down to retrofit to air-cooling, and some may even close.
At a special meeting of California energy companies and regulators held Feb. 26, Todd Strauss of Pacific Gas & Electric saw the possibility of state power blackouts emerging in 2013 to 2015. The reason is that it has suddenly dawned on state power regulators that green power has resulted in a precarious lack of system flexibility in the state’s power grid.