System Down: California’s All Wind & Solar Dream Turns to Deadly Nightmare

In a ‘don’t say we told you so moment’, wind and solar obsessed California has just suffered another run of weather induced mass blackouts. Like clockwork, wind power output collapsed just as the summer heat and demand for electricity rose – leaving a million or more Californians sweltering in the dark.

Anyone wondering what an all wind and sun powered future might look like need look no further than the debacle that is California. Oh, and for those who think this might be novel or unique, you can always trawl our archives on Australia’s blackout capital, the equally wind and solar obsessed South Australia: Déjà Vu (All Over Again): Yet Another Wind Power Output Collapse Plunges 200,000 South Australian Homes into the Dark Ages

Here’s a couple of primers on what happens when brazen ideology trumps sound engineering.

Green California Has the Nation’s Worst Power Grid
Washington Examiner
Steve Goreham
18 August 2020

More than a million Californians suffered power blackouts last Friday evening. When high temperatures caused customer demand to exceed the power available, California electrical utilities used rotating outages to force a reduction in demand. The California grid is the worst in the nation, with green energy policies pursued by the state likely furthering reduced grid reliability.

At 6:30 pm on Friday, Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s biggest utility, began shutting off power in rolling outages to force a reduction in demand. Southern California Edison also denied power to homes, beginning just before 7 pm. Shutoffs impacted a rotating group of up to two million customers until 11 pm.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) declared a Stage 3 Electrical Emergency, the first Stage 3 emergency since 2001. Spot power electricity prices soared to over $1,000 per megawatt-hour, more than 10 times the usual price.

In 2018, 19 percent of California’s electricity came from roof-top and utility-scale solar installations, the highest percentage in the nation. But by 6:30 pm each day, that solar output approaches zero. The state lacks enough reliable electricity generation capacity to run the air conditioners during hot summer evenings.

California has the least reliable electrical power system in the US. It isn’t even close. According to data by Eaton Corporation, the state leads the US in power outages every year, with more than double the outages of any other state over the last decade.

The causes of power outages can be divided into four major groups, which in order of importance are weather or downed trees, faulty equipment or human errors, unknowns, and vehicle accidents. California suffered the largest number of outages in each category in each year for 2014 through 2017.

For more than a decade, California has been closing coal and nuclear power plants. Recently, the state also began closing natural gas-fired plants as part of a continuing effort to fight global warming.

In 2006, Senate Bill 1368 established California’s Emissions Performance Standard, an effort to reduce state greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Since 2007, 11 in-state, coal-fired plants have been closed as a result, with an additional 3 converted to biomass fuel. California also slashed imports of electricity generated from coal plants. The Argus Cogen plant in Trona is the last remaining coal plant.

California nuclear plants, though not emitters of greenhouse gases, are also being phased out. The second and third units of the San Onofre nuclear generating plant near Los Angeles ceased operation in 2013. The Diablo Canyon plant, the last nuclear plant in California, is scheduled for closure in 2025.

Driven by state efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, gas-fired plants are also being shuttered. Natural gas generating capacity has fallen by more than 10 percent since 2013, with additional reductions planned.

Following the blackouts last Friday night, blackouts resumed at 6:30 pm on Saturday. Power officials blamed the loss of 1,000 megawatts of wind power when the wind subsided and the unexpected shutdown of a 470-megawatt power plant. It’s clear that the state does not have enough reliable baseload power as backup for intermittent wind and solar energy.

The problem of California’s poor electric reliability will likely get worse. On September 10, 2018, then Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 100, committing California to obtain 100 percent of its electricity from “clean energy sources” by 2045. Replacement of coal, nuclear, and natural gas generators with wind and solar will continue erode grid reliability.

As part of global warming efforts, officials want all citizens to switch their natural gas stoves and furnaces to electric models. More than 30 California cities have enacted bans on gas appliances, including the major cities of San Francisco and San Jose. Almost 10 percent of the state population now lives in an area covered by restrictions against gas appliances in new residential construction.

California also wants residents to transition from gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and trucks to plug-in electric models. So, when those blackouts occur in the future, not only will your lights and air conditioners fail, but you won’t be able to cook your food or drive your car either.

California sacrificed reliable electrical power on the altar of the fight against global warming. There is no evidence that state efforts will have the slightest effect on global temperatures, but they will be great for candle and flashlight sales.
Washington Examiner

CAISO President: California Power Grid teetering close to the edge of collapse
Watts Up With That?
Charles Rotter
18 August 2020

CA System Operators Fighting with Politicians to Keep Grid From Collapse

I sent an email to a relative earlier today predicting that politicians in California would start leaning on system operators to reduce their safety margin or contingency power in order to avoid rolling blackouts.

I had no idea they were teetering this close to the edge already.


In response to rolling blackouts over the weekend, California ISO President Steve Berber warned that California must maintain its current electricity reserves or risk ‘collapse of the entire system of California and perhaps the entire West.’

TRANSCRIPT: ISO Board of Governors Meeting Monday, August 17, 2020

CAISO CEO Steve Berber: “For those of you who think we can just use our reserves, you are wrong. You are trading the loss of 3000 megawatts for the collapse of the entire system of California and perhaps the entire West. […]

John, you mentioned that there are standards we follow that are NERC [North American Electric Reliability Corporation] standards. These standards are in place for a very good reason. They’re there to ensure there’s no system collapse. When you’re at the very edge and you have a contingency and you have no operating reserves, you risk entire system collapse. Is that not fair?”

CAISO Director, Real Time Operations John Phipps: “That’s correct, Steve. In fact that afternoon or evening there when we had the negative 1200 megawatt AC, if we would have deployed our reserves to recover our AC, but then had a large generator – Diablo Canyon – or some other similar unit trip which could not have recovered, we would have had AC frequency drop down dramatically and put the rest of the [Western] Interconnection in jeopardy.”
Watts Up With That?

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Davis k seger md. says:

    If Biden wins election in US all of the country will eventually be forced into “The green new deal”, retro fitting all gov buildings with solar, no nuke, no coal, no cars, airplanes, no cow farts, all “renewable” energy in 10 years, price tag an estimated 100 trillion dollars, some people think this is a good idea, I personally do not!

  2. Nelson BC the only city in western canada with its own clean green hydro generation making huge profits puts solar panels at the dam. Cleaner greener water spills down the river while we pay for this greenwashing, a testament to the power of green washers and eco wackos, we have more than our share.

  3. Peter Pronczak says:

    Again, with auto algorithm AI IT overwhelming the individual human intelligence, I ask am I wrong? Regarding global warming or water displacement due to weather events and human disposal of physical product?

    Is what I’m saying too complex to be understood?

  4. Crispin bpm says:

    The Philippines are moving ahead with HELE Coal Plant technology to both lower emissions and secure energy supply.

    Video title: Switch-on Celebration of SBPL’s 500-MW Supercritical Coal-Fired Power Plant 10/16/2019

    Published by RTVMalacanang

  5. sassycoupleok says:

    When are people going to awake to these failed strategies ?? Yet promotion of them continues.

  6. The public utility that services the Sacramento region (SMUD) did not have to cut power to their customers the day that the black outs started on the CASIO grid. They have worried about having too much non dis-patchable sources of generation on their grid for many years. Most recently they had this to say about PV

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