First published in the Sept. 10 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
The Jewel City has mostly weathered the heat wave for the past week, enduring what is projected to be Southern California’s hottest week of the year.
Glendale Water and Power, like the state, did not have to rely on rolling blackouts to handle electricity demand during the heat wave, which began over last weekend and is now waning. The utility provider broadly kept up with demand and, using backup generation methods, actually contributed to the state’s grid at one point.
Temperatures almost always reached a high in excess of 100, with the highest being 108 degrees last Saturday and 109 degrees on Sunday. Friday’s peak was around 98 degrees.
GWP’s peak demand was around 338 megawatts, according to Daniel Scorza, the chief assistant general manager of the electric side of GWP. This was achieved Tuesday, when the state’s grid was pushed to the brink at what is considered the peak of the heat wave. Backup generation units at Grayson Power Plant were utilized to help make it through.
“We were able to put on all of our units and we went through the hottest part,” Scorza said. “Once we went beyond the peak of the day, we helped the state with some extra generation.”
GWP’s record demand of 346 megawatts — which remains the benchmark that the utility plans around as it modernizes its energy portfolio — was set in 2017.
Though the city did not have to deploy rolling blackouts to keep the grid afloat, Scorza said there were some transformer overloads that knocked out power to a few blocks at a time. This was primarily caused by a combination of the overwhelming heat from the sunlight along with the sudden influx of power demand, typically as people returned home near the ends of the afternoon — especially when temperatures remain high at night and deprive those units of typical cooling periods.
GWP and other city officials had been warning customers that rolling blackouts were a possibility during this heat wave and urged residents and businesses to do what they could to conserve even a little power. The state power grid had reached imminent rolling blackout status on Tuesday, but ultimately did not have to go there.
“People have been conserving, and that number is a result of conservation,” Mark Young, general manager of GWP, said warningly.
Scorza said the highest number of customers affected at any one time by these outages was around 125, and that GWP crews have specifically been on standby to only work on these sorts of emergencies during the heat wave.
“The overloads kind of move around, but once we’re aware there’s an issue with overloaded transformers, with fluctuating voltage, we do move transmission around,” he added, explaining how GWP has worked to try balancing these surges to avoid small outages. “When there is overloading, an outage that is imminent or an actual outage, that’s what [our crews] work on.”
The city had set up a handful of cooling centers during the heat wave, which can be lifesaving for residents who don’t have air conditioning in their homes. Solene Manoukian, the community relations coordinator for the city, said on Wednesday that at least 131 people had taken advantage of those centers. City officials also encouraged residents to take advantage of splash pads at Pacific Park and Cerritos Park.
Adventist Health Glendale reported treating a handful of patients for heat-related ailments this past week. Glendale Memorial Hospital and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital did not report treating any such patients.