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Oroville Dam power plant back online after 5-month shutdown - Energy And Water Development Corp

Oroville Dam power plant back online after 5-month shutdown

In a small sign of drought recovery, the power plant at Oroville Dam has resumed operations after being shut off in August because of too little water to spin the turbines.

Water levels behind the 770-foot-high dam, the tallest in the nation, fell to their lowest level in history last year as California spiraled into a second year of drought. With Lake Oroville less than a quarter full, flows to the Edward Hyatt Power Plant were insufficient to keep the facility running. It resumed operations on Jan. 1.

The Aug. 5 shutdown was the first time the facility was taken offline because of a water shortage since it was built in 1967. The lack of energy from the plant contributed to a shortage of hydroelectric power across the state that had California power-grid officials scrambling to find electricity during the hot summer months.

A series of December storms, however, has begun to replenish the waterways in the Feather River watershed, in the northern Sierra, and recharge Lake Oroville.

“This is a significant milestone as California sees some relief from drought conditions,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources, which operates the dam and power plant. “Providing clean hydropower to the state energy grid allows DWR to assist in meeting the state’s clean energy goals.”

The power plant can produce several hundred megawatts of power, enough to supply a few hundred thousand homes, according to state officials. But it is currently generating only about 30 megawatts. Because lake levels remain low, dam operators are releasing only small amounts of water to serve the facility.

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