Rolling blackouts disrupt distance learning for students

Excessive heat jeopardizes online access to classes

Ella Noblin, Reporter

WEB EXLUSIVE Record-breaking temperatures and high winds could force power outages across the Bay Area, potentially disrupting online learning for students who may not have alternative sources of power. 

The National Weather Service is forecasting excessive heat for the Bay Area through Sept. 9. The NWS issued a red flag warning through Wednesday of this week, indicating ideal conditions for wildfires. 

“I am charging everything at night, and if we do end up losing any power, then I have all my devices,” sophomore Ginny Cross said. “I guess if we don’t have Wi-Fi, then I will go somewhere else.”

CAISO issues a flex alert when the electricity grid is under pressure, typically when the forecast for energy demand is beyond the grid’s capacity. A flex alert is a voluntary call for customers to conserve energy so that a rotating power outage is avoided. PG&E declared a statewide flex alert due to the triple-digit temperatures.

“The California Independent System Operator is the air traffic controller of the electrical power grid in the state of California,” PG&E Relations Manager Alisha Ferrone said. “Rotation outages become necessary when the CAISO is unable to meet minimum contingency reserve requirements for energy demand.”

Energy demand typically peaks in the summer months and usually in the evenings, when solar winds down and customers come home and turn on appliances. If a rotating outage becomes necessary, the outage typically lasts two hours and rotates in blocks across groups of customers, according to Ferrone. The potential threat of outages forces students to plan ahead.

“My parents would take me to their work where they have power generators,” sophomore Katarina Knott said. “We [need to] have enough power to be in classes and be able to learn online because we don’t have any other options for learning and being in school.” 

Students lived through prolonged power outages last fall as a result of the Northern California wildfires. While people were able to attend classes during the day, homework was an issue for many who returned home without power or Wi-Fi.

“Last year, I went to a friend’s house to charge my devices there or my family used their generator,” said Cross. “I was able to connect to Wi-Fi and do homework.”


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