News Roundup: Diablo Goes Down during Flex Alert

15 Oct 2020

Updated Oct. 16

Temperatures at the Southern California coast and in parts of northern California are projected to be 15-25 degrees above normal and the state grid operator has called for residents and businesses to conserve electricity. Making matters worse is that the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant and its 2,200 megawatts of power went offline.

Diablo’s Unit 1 has been undergoing a scheduled maintenance and been offline since Oct. 3, according to Pacific Gas & Electric. On Oct. 15, Unit 2 went down unexpectedly for maintenance, KEWT news reported. PG&E stated the unit was shut down “in order to perform maintenance on the main generator.” No date was given as to when it will be operating again.

Spiking temperatures led the California Independent System Operator to call an alert from mid-afternoon to 10 PM on Thursday.

Power prices were higher most of this week because of the fire threats and the fact that the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was partially offline.

Peak demand in the CAISO territory was projected to be well below that of mid-August, around 38,000 MW on Thursday compared to about 46,700 MW on Aug. 14.

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Electric and gas markets in and outside California are expected to be well-supplied this winter because of diminished demand from the pandemic, the high level of gas storage and predicted mild weather, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Despite that, gas future prices in California have spiked, FERC staff noted during an Oct. 15 agency meeting. “Winter futures prices at the SoCal-Border hub near Los Angeles have risen 37% despite high natural gas storage inventories and improving import capacity, as there is reduced upstream supply from the Rockies and Permian Basin,” it said.

Staff also noted that natural gas pipelines that were offline the last two winters, are operational again. Unplanned maintenance could cause reductions in pipeline capacity.

Southern California gas also is still limited because of constraints on natural gas withdrawals from the giant Aliso Canyon storage field.

Although California electric markets are expected to be in a good position heading into the winter in terms of installed capacity, CAISO could again experience over-supply conditions due to lower load and increased renewable production. Staff noted that high hydro, wind and solar in winter often results in CAISO curtailing large amounts of renewable energy.

FERC Commissioner Rich Glick noted that California was seeking to reduce renewable curtailment with increases in flexible resources, including demand response and storage, and greater regional coordination through its Energy Imbalance Market.

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The California Energy Commissioners unanimously approved Oct. 14 installing two permanent 0.19 MW diesel backup projects at a couple of geothermal plants in Sonoma County. They are to be built next to the facilities’ wet cooling towers to prevent fire damage when they are evacuated. Similar diesel projects were approved at four other geothermal project cooling towers.

In addition, the commissioners awarded $4.2 million in grants to more than two dozen startup companies with emerging clean energy projects. The 27 companies each will receive $150,000 from the ratepayer-funded Electric Program Investment Charge.

The CEC also approved a $2 million grant to the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians to connect 2 MWh of modular vanadium redox flow batteries to provide at least 10 hours to the Tribe’s recreation center/emergency shelter. This project is one of several to demonstrate non-lithium ion battery technologies to provide power during outages. It also will allow the shifting of onsite photovoltaic supplies to help balance the grid.

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