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New Power Plants Are California's Latest Effort To Avoid Rolling Blackouts

ROSEVILLE (CBS13) — The State of California is flexing a new muscle to strengthen the power grid in the fight to stop Northern California's devastating rolling blackouts.

State grid operators say we currently face a 3,500-megawatt energy shortfall this year—and next summer looks even worse.

So now Roseville Electric and other utilities are doing what they can to increase supply.

New power plants are California's latest effort to help keep the lights on.

"These units were specifically brought on to address some of what we've seen in the last two years with the heat-related emergencies," said Erin Frye with Roseville Electric.

Last summer, the state suffered rolling blackouts for the first time in nearly 20 years. And that threat resurfaced again this summer when the California Independent System Operator declared a series of flex alerts and a stage-two emergency to reduce electrical load.

That prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to order the construction of temporary power generation facilities that can be activated during emergencies to avoid outages.

"These units are very efficient and the response is immediate," Frye said. "So unlike some of the other resources on the grid, these are able to respond very quickly. So once that order comes through, they can fire up immediately."

The first four new power stations are now online—two in Yuba City and two at the Roseville Energy Park, built on the site of the city's existing power plant so they can tie in with the current power grid.

"These are not specifically for the Roseville area, so these will go to be used throughout the state of California," Frye said.

So how much power can these plants provide?

Together they can generate up to 120 megawatts of energy. That's enough to power about 90,000 homes.

And unlike solar, they use natural gas and are available 24 hours a day—but they will only be used during times of peak demand.

"These units could potentially not run until next summer," Frye said.

Many people say they try to cut back use when a flex alert is issued.

"Stop doing dishes or stop doing laundry," said Roseville resident Oxsanna Kaslov.

"I don't have my thermostat anywhere near where I'd like it," said Deane Tophigh, also of Roseville.

And they're happy to hear there's now more energy available when it's needed.

"They have to have more power or we will have blackouts," Tophigh said.

The four new power plants cost nearly $200 million with money coming from the state's emergency fund

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