Climate on the Ground: Not Good for Hydro

SouthLakeLowIMG_4370by Emil Morhardt

This is South Lake, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains at 9500 ft. ASL above Bishop, California. Looks (and was) rainy at the end of July 2014, but this reservoir, one of the largest on the east side of the Sierra is at the lowest level I’ve seen it in many decades. It is the primary source of water for Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Bishop Creek Hydroelectric Project, usually a 50 MW source of renewable energy that won’t be producing much of anything this year. The problem this year is, of course, a severe drought that may or may not be attributable to anthropogenic climate change (I’m betting it is though.) But drought or not, most models predict that more and more Sierran precipitation will be coming down as rain going forward. So this time of year, South Lake will fill up during the autumn rains, but won’t continue to be refilled by snowmelt as summer approaches, sharply curtailing a major source of renewable energy.