Report details causes of recent California rolling blackouts

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August 14 and 15 saw a heatwave drive rolling blackouts. And then on August 16, a station in Death Valley hit 130°F...
Enlarge / August 14 and 15 saw a heatwave drive rolling blackouts. And then on August 16, a station in Death Valley hit 130°F…

In mid-August, just before dry lightning storms ignited a series of fires that would break records in California, an intense heatwave resulted in rolling blackouts on two consecutive days. The trouble came in the evening, when solar generation drops off, leading some to claim this was the consequence of relying on renewable electricity. But it’s not that simple, as the outages could have been avoided. A new “preliminary root cause analysis” report from two state commissions and the California Independent System Operator that runs the grid presents a clearer picture of what went wrong.

The rolling outages affected a few hundred thousand people starting around 6:30pm on both August 14 and 15. They were actually the result of the grid’s rules: once the remaining reserve generation falls below six percent of current demand, the grid operator is required to institute rolling blackouts.

The report blames the need for outages on three things: extreme and widespread hot weather, a failure to update peak-demand forecasting practices as solar generation grows, and mistakes on the grid market that led to some plants exporting power when it was actually needed in-state.

First up, the weather that precipitated the shortage: It was indeed remarkably hot, which drove demand up to power air conditioning from the afternoon into the evening. The report puts it at about a 1-in-35-year heatwave. Grid planning accounts for extremes to an extent, but oversizing potential supply for every possible event can push costs to astronomical levels, so there are limits. And those limits are changing, as the report describes this as a “climate change-induced extreme heat storm.” There has not been a formal scientific study of this


How many coronavirus cases are there across California State University system? Nobody really knows

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How many California State University students and employees have the coronavirus? On most of the 23 campuses, nobody really knows.

The CSU chancellor’s office in Long Beach allows each campus to decide whether to require virus testing for employees and students. Most do not.

Instead, nearly all rely on students to voluntarily report if they feel ill or test positive elsewhere. As a result, the official number of coronavirus cases tends to be low on campuses that don’t test, and higher where they do.

“It’s scary,” said Ben Davis, who teaches a daylong TV journalism class in person every Monday at Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles, where the coronavirus prevention rules are clear.

Before class, Davis uses the school’s coronavirus screening app to answer four familiar questions: Been near anyone with COVID-19? Runny nose? Fever? Cough? If he answers no, he’s clear to enter the campus, where he is an assistant professor of digital journalism. He and 12 students spend the day creating a TV news show. No more than eight can be in the studio at once — all 6 feet apart. And when the anchor reads the teleprompter unmasked, everyone else has to clear out. After that, the room stays empty for 72 hours.

The class is one of about 7% conducted in person across the CSU’s 23 campuses, all of which adhere to similar safety rules. But to Davis — and many others who think about college in the coronavirus era — those precautions don’t go far enough.

“I feel safe with what (Northridge) has done so far, but putting in the extra resources for testing would be more safe and prudent, I think,” said Davis, whose tennis partner, another professor, steers clear of the campus because of the uncertainty. For his part, Davis sprays a


Tech worker pleads guilty to killing and burning California student Mackenzie Lueck

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By LINDSAY WHITEHURST | The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY  — A tech worker pleaded guilty on Wednesday to strangling a Utah college student whose disappearance over a year ago sparked a search that ended with the discovery of her charred remains in his backyard.

FILE – In this Dec. 20, 2019, file photo, Ayoola A. Ajayi appears in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City. Ajayi pleaded guilty in the death of a Utah college student Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, more than a year after her disappearance sparked a large-scale search that ended with the discovery of her charred remains in his backyard. Ajayi is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck. (Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News via AP, File) 

Ayoola A. Ajayi acknowledged he planned the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck, whom he met on a dating app and arranged to meet in a park. After they returned to his home, he bound and strangled her, then burned and hid her body while police and loved ones searched for her, his lawyer said in court.

Ajayi pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and desecration of a corpse in an agreement with prosecutors that removed the possibility of the death penalty. Prosecutors dropped charges of aggravated kidnapping and obstructing justice.

Ajayi also pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a different woman he met on a dating app. He is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said the guilty pleas allow Lueck’s parents to begin to get closure and a “measure of justice.” Gill said the family has asked for privacy.

Lueck has been remembered as a bubbly, nurturing person who belonged to a sorority


COVID-19 and wildfire smoke put twindemic pressure on California, West Coast college students

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Fall weekends in Berkeley, California, have passed in a more subdued manner than years past.

How controlled fires have helped prevent mega-fires for centuries



Where throngs of college students once partied raucously, sororities and fraternities now are dark and quiet. Around the University of California’s campus, it’s clear school is underway. But where is everyone?

Most students have been staying inside – for weeks.

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Like much of California, Berkeley students have faced overlapping crises that have limited options for learning, socializing and carrying out everyday life.

First, it was the coronavirus. The university scrapped its plan for a hybrid of in-person and online courses this fall when COVID-19 cases mushroomed in mid-July. Many students moved home. Those who stayed found pandemic restrictions in place on everything from large gatherings to indoor dining. 

Then, the fires came. California is battling the worst fire season in recorded history. Smoke has blanketed much of the state for weeks. 

That means physical exertion outside is not recommended, and prolonged exposure can lead to headaches, sore throats and worse. Weeks after thick smoke first sent Californians inside, fires have sparked again across California. The taste of smoke comes and goes, and at times, San Francisco is barely visible across the Bay.  

COVID-19, hurricanes, wildfires: 2020 is an American nightmare that’s wearing us out

Online classes have made the whole experience more isolating, UC Berkeley third-year undergraduate Katie Lyon told USA TODAY. Lyon, co-president of the Cal Hiking and Outdoors Society, has found it hard to practice self-care while staring at a screen all day, which is why she usually hikes “every opportunity that I get between my academic schedule.”

That’s become more difficult this


A California college student says a professor told her not to breastfeed her baby during online class

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Marcella Mares, mother to a 10-month-old girl, received an email from her Fresno City College instructor on September 23 about a new class rule requiring students to turn on cameras and microphones during online classes for attendance purposes.

Mares wrote back and said she could leave her camera and microphone on but may turn it off when she needs to breastfeed her daughter.

With the pandemic in the US entering its seventh month, many parents have had to redefine their work-life balance as many workplaces and schools remain virtual. Mares sent the email to her instructor in hopes that it wouldn’t impact her grade, but instead received an unexpected response.

“I am glad to hear that you can have your camera and microphone on, but please do not breastfeed your daughter during class time because it is not what you should be doing,” the instructor replied. “Just do that after class.”

Mares said she was shocked at his response.

“I was upset about it,” she said. “I didn’t like the feeling of him telling me what I can and can’t do with my baby, especially in my own home because school is online right now.”

On the same day, Mares said, the instructor announced during class that he received a “weird” email from a student who wanted to do some “inappropriate” things during class.

This made her even more upset because she said she felt “he publicly outed me in front of the class.”

A woman was told to cover up at Chick-fil-A while nursing. To support her, moms held a breastfeeding sit-in

She reached out to the school’s Title IX coordinator, Lorraine Smith, regarding the incident and a few days later, the instructor emailed Mares an apology.

“I am sorry for the inconvenience in regard to your intention of breastfeeding your baby. From now on, you have the right to breastfeed your baby at any given time during

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