California has managed to avoid an electricity blackout due to excessive consumption by sending millions of SMS’s

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Imagine that your community’s electricity network has just broken a new consumption record and that it is dangerously close to the limit of its capacity. As demand increases, the risk of blackouts also increases. The closest and most effective solution to mitigate this problem, at least according to the most populous state in the United States, is ask people to turn off their appliances via SMS’s.

According to the Los Angeles TimesLast week, the California power grid had begun to suffer the consequences of a heat wave that had been plaguing the state for weeks. Given this scenario, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) had agreed with local electricity service providers on a series of planned blackouts if conditions did not improve soon.

California power grid hit

However, there were no signs that the effects of the heat wave were going away and, consequently, that energy demand was falling. 30 minutes before implementing the contingency plan wireless emergency alert system activated (system also available in Spain), a resource reserved for catastrophes and emergency situations that allows alerts to be sent to the entire population via mobile.

On Tuesday, September 6, at around 5:45 p.m. local time, the phones of millions of Californians rang almost instantly. They had received the following emergency message in Spanish and English: “Extreme heat weakens the power grid. Power outages could occur if you do nothing. Turn off or limit the consumption of household appliances that are not essential for your healthfrom now until 9:00 p.m.

Residents were quick to react to the message and within minutes the demand for electricity dropped by approximately 2,000 megawatts drastically reducing the load on the grid. Thus, ISO was able to avoid blackouts. It is that the operator had projected a maximum demand of 51,146 megawatts, but this had reached 52,061 megawatts on Tuesday, putting the system “on the brink of the abyss”.

But why was it considered to restrict the electricity supply? According to statements by Emma Hill, Senior Lecturer in Energy and Environmental Management at Coventry University to the BCCif there is a very high demand for electricity on days of high temperatures and low production, there is a risk of damage distribution equipment, such as transformers and power lines, that take time to repair.

According to the California Governor’s Office, climate change has caused heat waves to become more severe and frequent in the western United States. Since September 1, several cities have set new historical temperature records. The thermometers of Sacramento, the capital of the state, registered 47 ºC last Tuesday.

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In this context, the operation of some hydroelectric plants has also been affected due to the decrease in the water reserves of Lake Oroville. The contribution of solar energy, for its part, disappears at night, increasing the vulnerability of the network. It should be noted that emergency SMS they have been used only twice in the last decade in California: during the 2017 fires and during COVID-19 in 2020.

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Imagine that your community’s electricity network has just broken a new consumption record and that it is dangerously close to…

Imagine that your community’s electricity network has just broken a new consumption record and that it is dangerously close to…

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