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Pasadena Preps for Hot August: ‘We’re in Good Shape, But It’s Going to be Challenging”

Solar power installations have taken stress off the electrical grid in Pasadena, says PWP

Published on Thursday, August 4, 2022 | 6:02 am
 

In December 2016, Pasadena Water and Power completed the Glenarm Repowering Project, an extensive power plant upgrade that includes the replacement of a 51-year-old steam generating unit, with a more efficient combined cycle turbine unit known as Gas Turbine 5 (GT-5). Now fully operational, GT-5 provides Pasadena with clean, natural-gas fueled power that is the most efficient and environmentally “clean” unit in its class. [Artist enhancement of City of Pasadena photo]
Solar energy systems installation in homes and businesses has greatly benefited Pasadena’s electrical grid by reducing system demand and stress, according to the Pasadena Water and Power Interim General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger. 

“It’s overall been helpful,” Kightlinger told Pasadena Now. “What we’ve seen is our peak demands have dropped.” 

In the past, Pasadena’s peak demand could reach up to 320 megawatts (MW). To date, the peak demand in the city’s electrical grid is reported at around 290 MW, according to Kightlinger.

“Our peak demands have been shaved off by people getting more efficient, buying more efficient appliances and equipment, better air conditioning, but also having that solar power in the system during the daytime.”

“So, that’s good news. That’s taken some of the stress off the system, even as our world’s gotten hotter and more challenging, that solar power has helped.” 

Despite solar power reducing demand and stress in the system, Kightlinger noted that climate change, the continuing drought crisis in particular, is expected to bring new challenges to the electrical grid, especially with summer forecasted to be hotter than usual. 

“Temperatures go up and as we deal with climate change, we’ve seen obviously significant drought.” 

“And drought impacts us in a couple of ways. One is that, that means there’s a lot less hydroelectric power in the system and in the grid.” 

Currently, Pasadena has two cost-based power purchase agreements with the United States Department of Energy Western Area Power Administration for a combined total of up to 20 megawatt capacity from the generating units at the hydroelectric power plant of the Boulder Canyon Project at Hoover Dam located approximately 25 miles from Las Vegas on the Nevada/Arizona border, according to the city website. 

“Pasadena doesn’t have direct hydroelectric power for the most part. But we do get a little bit of energy out of Hoover Dam and that energy has dropped because there’s been less water in the Colorado River.” 

Less water means less hydroelectric power, said the PWP official.“It impacts the entire grid. And that indirectly impacts Pasadena because we’re also connected to everybody else. So as the pool shrinks of available power, that ripples over to Pasadena.” 

Kightlinger noted that aside from the impacts to the hydroelectric power supply, the drought, which can be a contributing factor to wildfire, can also impact electric transmission. 

“The wildfire season knocks out a lot of electrical transmission, because they have to shut down throughout the state. And again, that causes a ripple effect into Pasadena, as we prop up the entire state’s electrical system, Pasadena can be part of the areas impacted,” Kightlinger said. 

“And then the final issue with drought is that we’ve seen more trees and tree branches coming down because trees in the city get stressed by drought,” he added. 

Despite anticipated challenges due to the expected high temperature, the climate change and the drought crisis, PWP said it did everything to prepare for the summer season, where demand is expected to surge. 

“We’ve done what we can to prepare and we think we’re in good shape, but it’s going to be challenging,” said Kightlinger 

To know the benefits of installing solar energy system in homes and businesses, visit: https://ww5.cityofpasadena.net/water-and-power/psi/

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