California’s Unreliable Power Supply

(p. A11) . . . consider the story of the Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station. Opened in 1975, it was capable of generating over 900 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power upward of 900,000 homes. Fourteen years after powering up, the nuclear reactor shut down, thanks to fierce antinuclear opposition. Eventually, the facility was converted to solar power, and today generates a measly four MW of electricity. After millions of dollars in subsidies and other support, the entire state has less than 250 MW of solar capacity.
. . .
. . . : California now imports lots of energy from neighboring states to make up for having too few power plants. Up to 20% of the state’s power comes from coal-burning plants in Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Montana. Another significant portion comes from large-scale hydropower in Oregon, Washington State and the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas.
“California practices a sort of energy colonialism,” says James Lucier of Capital Alpha Partners, a Washington, D.C.-area investment group. “They leave those states to deal with the resulting pollution.”
. . .
The unreliable power grid is starting to rattle some Silicon Valley heavyweights. Intel CEO Craig Barrett, for instance, vowed in 2001 not to build a chip-making facility in California until power supplies became more reliable. This October, Intel opened a $3 billion factory near Phoenix for mass production of its new 45-nanometer microprocessors. Google has chosen to build the massive server farms that will fuel its expansion anywhere but in California.

For the full commentary, see:
MAX SCHULZ. “California’s Energy Colonialism.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 3, 2008): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)

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