Electrical operators are going to have to burn electricity to keep electricity flowing, among other tricks of physics to keep the lights on if Southern California has to spend another summer without power from the .
Established electricity pipelines exist that can bring power from other parts of the region, but operators need to control its flow without the help of the nuclear power plant to keep homes and businesses electrified. They'll have to install devices at substations and even run one retired power plant essentially backwards to handle the influx.
The , the broker for pretty much all electricity in the state, issued a report this week outlining plans to keep the voltage up in the absence of the troubled nuclear power plant.
The it would be months before it would approve the SoCal Edison plant's restart plan, if at all. San Onofre's new steam generators , which came to light after a of radioactive steam.
As important as the juice San Onofre pumped into the grid, was its ability to regulate it, what folks in the industry call "reactive power," said Steven Greenlee, California ISO spokesman.
Southern California has a number of electrical import pipelines from within and out of the state. However, without control of the frequency of the alternating current on which the grid runs, all that extra power would just blow out substations and generators leaving residents and businesses in the dark, Greenlee said.
That's why the operator of the has agreed to convert its turbines into devices that help maintain the correct 60-megahertz frequency. These turbines were built to be turned by burning gas to produce electricity. But, by pumping a small amount of electricity back in to spin them, they can be used to modulate existing voltage on the grid.
This is doubly important because they won't be allowed to emit any gasses from burning fuel after October when their credits expire.
Also, to help handle the flow of electricity, utilities will be installing capacitors at substations around San Diego and Orange counties. Capacitors are devices that can store up a charge and allow operators to release it as needed. And the charge that's released is at that same, steady old 60 megahertz that keeps your refrigerator running.
Hundreds of stories, photos and videos in chronological order detailing the history of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station over the last two years are available here at our Patch topic page.