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Jun 3, 2024, 5:06pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

Heat dome will test California’s solar-heavy grid’s resilience

Insights from Politico, Los Angeles Times, and E&E News

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California wildfires
Cheerlyn Fredrick/via REUTERS
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The News

A heat dome is forming over California and the southwest, and authorities warned residents temperatures could surge into the triple digits for days.

Beyond medical emergencies and wildfires, experts are also worried about the strain on California’s electrical grid, which relies in part on new technology from China to accommodate renewable energy sources.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

California’s Made-in-China batteries yet to be tested

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Sources:  
The New York Times, Politico

The heat wave will stress California’s electric grid as homes and businesses turn up the AC, and in particular, it will test the state’s battery system used to store electricity produced by solar power. California has installed the most giant batteries anywhere apart from China, and China is also the primary battery supplier for the state, according to the New York Times. One facility with batteries made by China’s BYD can power 680,000 homes for up to four hours when fully charged, for example; it will go online later this summer. But some worry White House tariffs on Chinese green tech will “create a headwind for California’s [climate] policy goals,” said a UC Berkeley economist, and in turn, hamper its grid as it strives to meet demand in the future.

Washington can’t do much even if it wants to help

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Source:  
E&E News

Unlike tornadoes, hurricanes, or even wildfires, federal law does not classify extreme heat as a natural disaster, meaning the federal government is limited in the emergency resources it can provide to states during heat crises, according to E&E News. The Biden administration has previously said it helped states coordinate during heat emergencies, but states and cities “are often left without a centralized federal touchpoint” to set up resources like cooling centers and allocate medical supplies, according to one Stanford University researcher. The White House has been helping in other ways, though, such as launching a new tool that identifies which ZIP codes are most at risk of heat-related medical emergencies.

Wildfires are coming, officials warn

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Sources:  
CNN, Los Angeles Times

California — which has already begun battling wildfires this year — could see the fires grow as the extreme heat hits. Residents evacuated from the area around Tracy, a city in central California, were warned on Monday that the heat could trigger more evacuations, CNN reported. Human-caused climate change intensifies heat domes and that leads to more devastating wildfires, the Los Angeles Times reported: a recent study how that a 2021 heat dome over the Pacific Northwest likely extended wildfire damage by 34% and that fires lasted 60% longer than without global warming. Those 2021 wildfires ultimately charred over 18.5 million acres across the continent, primarily in California and Canada.

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