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Power, irrigation affected by heat
Ample water brings relief
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The summer of 2017 has been exceptionally hot, and August was no different. The month brought record-breaking temperatures, affecting the demand for both power and irrigation water from the Turlock Irrigation District.

Of August’s 31 days, 24 broke the previous records for that day’s highest temperature – most by more than five degrees.

The higher temperatures created an increase in demand for power among TID customers, said Public Information Officer Calvin Curtin, resulting in a new system peak high of 548.7 megawatts on Aug. 28.  The recorded temperature on that day was 109 – the hottest of the month – smashing that day’s previous record of 92 degrees.

This summer alone, TID has set a new system peak three times as scorching heat causes customers to turn their air conditioners up even higher. While the increased temperatures do create more demand for energy from TID’s customers, the district is well-prepared to meet those demands through its multiple solar, wind and hydroelectric generating facilities, said Curtin. Thanks to these alternative forms of energy, the heat wave hasn’t affected TID’s energy prices for customers.

By releasing water from the Don Pedro Reservoir to bring water under the flood curve, TID has been able to generate more hydroelectricity than normal, added Curtin.

“Since we’re releasing so much water, we’ve generated a lot of hydro,” said Curtin. “For our local customers, our power is extremely green. An upwards of 60, or 70 to 80 percent of our power is clean and GHG free.”

The record-breaking heat has also affected irrigation for local growers. Based on observations of local growers and how they tend to irrigate, Curtin said that the demand for irrigation water increases by about 10 to 15 percent during hotter days, like those seen in August.

“When it’s hot, you need to irrigate more,” said Curtin. “The heat dries out the soil.”

During the month of August, TID received 11,473 water orders, compared to just over 7,000 ordered during August 2016. To fill those orders, about 84,500-acre feet of water was released from Turlock Lake. The last time that much water was available was 2011, said Curtin, which was the region’s most recent “wet year” prior to the rainy season this year.

While the heat has affected both power and irrigation, luckily, the region received enough water during the precipitation year (September 2016-August 2017) to account for the heat wave. This precipitation year, which just ended Aug. 31, was the second-wettest ever recorded, and has been the wettest year on record when it comes to runoff, according to TID Utility Analyst Jason Carkeet.

The precipitation year yielded 63.67 inches, compared to 39.42 inches the previous year, and has supplied a runoff to date of 4.84 million acre feet – the most on record. Last year, the total runoff was 1.82 million acre feet.

The surplus of water has allowed TID to compensate for energy demands by producing more hydroelectricity, and allowed growers to use more water for irrigation to quench their crops’ thirst, said Curtin.

“If it’s hot and you have water, you’re going to use it,” he said.