Construction of the Goleta City Hall solar project could be completed as soon as next week.
Construction of the Goleta City Hall solar project could be completed as soon as next week. (Grace Kitayama / Noozhawk photo)

Heat waves and blackouts are becoming more prevalent in Santa Barbara County and across California.

During the heat wave in early September, when the county reached triple digits, state energy officials sent out emergency text alerts asking residents to conserve power.

“With a warming climate, heat waves like the ones we’ve just experienced will become more common and can have significant implications and impacts on human health,” said Angeline Foshay, the sustainability management assistant for the City of Goleta.

Though heat waves don’t directly cause power outages or rolling blackouts, they do create the conditions where people use more energy by turning on fans and air conditioning units to make their environments more tolerable, Foshay said.

As a result, there are increases in electricity usage in homes, putting a strain on the state’s power grid. The grid is further exacerbated in the evening when people come home from work and turn on the lights and appliances in their homes.

“Traditionally, as people come home from work as the sun goes down,” Foshay said, “there is less solar energy exporting to the grid, creating an increase in energy demand and a decrease in clean energy supply.”

Foshay said the solution to the strain is increased battery storage installation across the state that can support the power grid during times of high demand.

“It’s important to acknowledge how severe this particular heat wave was,” Foshay said. “When we have high temperatures in the evening and night, there can be an increase in energy usage as the natural cooling we usually experience on the South Coast has to be supplemented with air conditioning.”

Foshay said battery storage installation has already proven effective.

According to Foshay, during a critical energy demand peak the evening of Sept. 5, battery storage provided more than 3,360 megawatts of energy. That’s more than the state’s largest electric generator, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, could provide.

While California is looking for ways to keep up with the energy demand, individuals also can reduce energy consumption at home. Homeowners can reduce their power consumption by adding solar panels to their homes, installing energy-efficient windows or using more energy-efficient appliances. 

Renters who do not have control of their appliances can reduce their energy use by using LED light bulbs, using the microwave instead of the stovetops, turning off lights and fans, and unplugging electronics when they are not in use to prevent phantom energy use.

Noozhawk staff writer Grace Kitayama can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.