OROVILLE, Calif. – The fourth largest hydroelectric producer statewide, the Edward Hyatt Power Plant, might need to shut down due to low water levels for the first time in its history.
“In the previous 2 droughts, the one in 1977 and one in 2014-2015, we were able to maintain lake levels high enough so there was minimal generation at the facility,” said Tim Kennelly, Assistant Division Chief for Operations and Maintenance for the State Water Project.
The idea of this is putting some people like Jeanean Boatwright-Krejci, who lives in Oroville, on edge as she remembers a time when the lake did not look so empty.
“We would come out here and you could go and sit underneath the trees where it is flat, and the water was right there,” said Krejci.
Right now, the lake level is currently at 691 feet, and it would need to drop below 630-640 feet to not be able to generate power anymore.
Although, hydros are not the only way to get power.
“We have a whole quiver of power generation,” said Paul Moreno, PG&E spokesman. “We have natural gas power plants, nuclear plant, solar, wind, biomass and of course hydro power.”
The California Independent System Operator oversees the bulk of the state’s electric power grid.
Right now it shows that large hydros only power 1.4% of the state’s grid.
“The power produced at the Hyatt is fed into the state electrical grid, so it’s not necessarily specifically to the local users,” said Kennelly.
Not all hydros are at risk with the dry year.
“By saving that water in reservoirs and we can use it during the peak periods, we can help the state meet its goals when power demand is high and it means a better value for our customers,” said Moreno.
The Hyatt Plant is unique because it is reliant on runoff into the reservoir from the Feather River watershed, which had a critically dry year.
“The Thermalito Power Plant will most likely continue operating at limited levels,” said Kennelly. “That’s because we do have to maintain some water releases to the feather river for things like water supply, environmental and fishery needs, health and safety and then to flow water to the Delta to help salinity intrusions.”
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) projects the water might fall too low to generate power by August or September of this year.
Read More: Hyatt Power Plant projected to shut down due to low water levels