More than 30 California generators down for repair : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

State Narrowly Escapes a Day of Rolling Blackouts More than 30 generators down for repair

Patrick Hoge, Chronicle Staff Writer Thursday, February 15, 2001 2001 San Francisco Chronicle


California came perilously close to rolling blackouts yesterday after two more power plants unexpectedly went off line, state and utility officials said.

The failures expose how fragile the state's power grid has become. More than 30 in-state power plants were out of service yesterday for unplanned maintenance, and out-of-state providers were avoiding the California market for fear of not getting paid.

"We're riding right close to the edge again," said Patrick Dorinson, a spokesman for the Independent System Operator, which runs the state's transmission grid.

Dorinson said the latest two plant failures raised the amount of idled generating capacity in California to about 10,384 megawatts. That's about a quarter of the state's total generating capacity.

A megawatt is enough power to supply 1,000 homes simultaneously.

The largest plant to go down yesterday morning was a 215-megawatt generator in Ventura County owned by Reliant Energy Inc. The other plant was Dynegy Inc. 's Miramar combustion turbine in San Diego County, which a company spokeswoman said is "very small."

The failure of the Reliant plant in Ventura County caused some finger pointing between the power company and Southern California Edison, the utility that delivers electricity to many south state residents.

Reliant spokesman Richard Wheatley blamed the shutdown on a faulty breaker owned by Southern California Edison, which caused an electricity surge that "cooked" the controls at Reliant's Mandalay Unit 2 steam plant near Oxnard about 5 a.m.

But Edison spokesman Steve Conroy rejected that assertion, saying the Edison line that experienced problems did not even serve the Mandalay unit.

"That's absolutely not true," Conroy said. "There's some other reason."

Wheatley said the plant was expected to be on line again by last night.

Gil Alexander, another Edison spokesman, said the state agency that oversees the California power grid warned of rolling blackouts early yesterday and asking company officials to issue pleas for conservation.

"We were put on alert at about 9 a.m. that it appeared to them there would not be sufficient supplies in the 10 o'clock hour," Alexander said. Edison customers so far have not experienced blackouts, though customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. suffered rolling blackouts two days last month.

The threat of blackouts on a day of relatively low demand showed how hobbled the state's power system is.

Total demand was just 30,986 megawatts, while a summer day can draw as much as 45,000 megawatts, said ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle. On a summer day, only about 2,500 megawatts are usually off line for maintenance.

Nettie Hoge, executive director of the consumer group TURN, The Utility Reform Network, suggested that generators such as Reliant could be deliberately idling power plants to increase prices.

"Every time I hear of an outage I have to ask the question," Hoge said. "There's just too many incentives for people to do it."

E-mail Patrick Hoge at

-- Martin Thompson (, February 15, 2001


Good info martin! Looks like more problems for calif..

-- Tess (, February 15, 2001.

This is too dire not to considered seriously. All we know is what is broadcasted on the news. What a closet scenerio that is. Does anyone, on this board have contact with actual family/friends in California, who have suffered a Black Out? Actually doing without electricity? Just asking the question........ Not unlike when Hurricane Floyd came through Florida. All news cast warned us to "stay out", "stay away", from the East Coast. We fled, while those who did not, thought we were nuts, because the wind did not even blow hard, much less a Hurricane. Remember the 80's song, "Dirty Laundry?". Just asking...

-- My Story (, February 15, 2001.

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