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Once depleted, Lake Oroville restarts hydroelectric power plant

  • Jan 7, 2022
San Diego Union-Tribune

After being knocked offline due to the statewide drought, hydropower generation has resumed at the Hyatt Powerplant at the Oroville Dam in Northern California.

A recent series of storms that brought record-breaking amounts of snowfall to the Sierra Nevada boosted lake levels and provided colder water in the Lake Oroville reservoir, prompting the California Department of Water Resources to fire the facility back up for the first time in nearly five months.

"This is a significant milestone as California sees some relief from drought conditions, water resources director Karla Nemeth said in a statement Tuesday.

A second straight year of hot and dry weather dropped water levels to such depths that the Hyatt Powerplant on Aug. 5 shut down for the first time since it began operating in 1967.

Officials at the Department of Water Resources, known as DWR for short, will utilize one electricity-producing generating unit that will supply about 30 megawatts of power to the California Independent System Operator, the nonprofit that manages the electric grid for about 80 percent of the state.

DWR anticipates an average outflow of about 900 cubic feet per second and officials say if lake levels rise and energy demand increases, additional units at the plant will be brought back online.

Though still not back to normal, the recent storms have lifted Lake Oroville to 75 percent of its historic level for this time of year.

While Hyatt was shuttered, DWR conducted major maintenance work so the facility would be ready to restart when water levels were sufficient. At 770 feet, the Lake Oroville dam is the nation's tallest.

Northern California was socked with snow and rain in December, with the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, located at Donner Pass near Lake Tahoe reporting 214 inches of snow for the month, the most for any December since the lab started recording data in 1970.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

©2022 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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