Life after nukes

Think tank publishes report exploring options for a San Onofre-free Southern California

A new paper out from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit think tank based in Colorado, provides a host of suggestions on how the region served by the long-idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station might adapt to the increasingly possible scenario that the plant’s twin nuclear reactors may never be brought back online.">Reinventing Fire in Southern California notes first that through the temporary reactivation of a retired plant in Huntington Beach and the completion of the Sunrise Powerlink, which allowed for increased energy import, that San Diego and neighboring communities were able to survive the summer without experiencing blackouts or other power emergencies.

One of the strategies the Institute suggests is continued “demand response” programs, such as the Flex Alerts that were successful in getting consumers to voluntarily reduce energy use during peak demand events such as heat waves.">According to one local engineer, however, even during those peak periods the existing, San Onofre-free grid still had plenty of excess power to avoid a regional emergency.

The report also praises California’s energy efficiency initiatives, noting that various measures have kept the state’s per-capita energy consumption at a constant since 1978, while energy use on a per person basis has increased an average of 30 percent across the country.

More distributed, smaller sources of generation, such as personal-use solar arrays, has also">seen tremendous growth in recent years. A continuation of this trend, while not having the effect of being an immediate replacement, shows promise – since 2007 enough new solar installations have been activated to exceed the generation capabilities of one of the two idled nuclear reactors, though this figure factors in all new systems throughout the state.

Another option explored is creating a way to store energy generated during off-peak times for use when demand spikes. While technology in this arena is advancing, systems such as battery banks that store power generated via systems such as solar that do not generate electricity consistently are still very expensive and widespread implementation is still years away.


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