Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Developing Hydropower Deficits in the Western U.S.

As the books close on January, the serious drought in the western states continues, with low reservoir levels, snowpack, river levels, and soil moisture.  

With the focus on Washington, Oregon, and California, the daily reports from CAISO and BPA show the developing situation:

Hydro generation was down in the CAISO region by 860 GWh, and in BPA by a solid 2,046 GWh.  That's a massive missing volume, equivalent to almost four nuclear reactors but even more flexible.  

However, total electricity demand in CAISO was also way down, below 2013 by about 825 GWh, roughly the equivalent of the missing hydro.

Total generation demand in JAN is down.......

While Hydro generation is down by a similar amount.....

But the kicker has been solar generation, which in California is contributing an additional 338 GWh above last January......

With the net result that the hydro deficit has been more than offset by the lower demand and higher solar.  There is a reasonable chance that this will be the prevailing trend as summer approaches, because solar will strengthen measurably due to more seasonal insolation, and more solar facilities are scheduled to come online.

The situation is not so pretty further north in the BPA region of Oregon and Washington, a subject for a future post.