Man-made Lake Oroville, about 110 miles northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area and about 70 miles north of Sacramento, is about a third of the size of Washington when full. It serves as a water reserve and flood storage for many communities in northern California.
Concerns have been raised that the shutdown of the power plant could lead to rolling blackouts statewide later this summer. But officials suggested a sudden disruption to water or electricity supplies for nearby areas isn’t likely.
“The state has planned for its loss in both water and grid management,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the state’s water resources department, in a statement.
But Nemeth also called on Californians to reduce their water usage by 15 percent to preserve water supply. “This is just one of many unprecedented impacts we are experiencing in California as a result of our climate-induced drought,” she said.
While California regularly experiences droughts, there was much less water runoff into the lake in spring, resulting in historically low levels of water in the lake, officials said. This is the first time the plant has had to shut since it went into operation in 1967.
The plant can generate up to 750 megawatts of power at full capacity but has often produced between 100 and 400 megawatts, or slightly under 1 percent of California’s average daily peak usage, according to the Los Angeles Times.