Effects of the western drought

By |  August 3, 2015

The severe drought conditions in the West are creating energy concerns in some areas. NBC News reports that as rivers shrink, sources of water-generated electricity are beginning to dry up.

The report cites the shutdown of a hydroelectric generation turbine on the McKenzie River in Oregon, and the pending closure of two more downstream. While this has been known to happen on occasion, it has never happened this early in the season.

Lack of snowpack is causing the same problem in California, which is in its fourth year of drought. The report says total hydroelectric generation in California dropped 60 percent between 2011 and 2014. And while it usually accounts for between 14 and 19 percent of California’s total power mix, in recent years it has dipped below 8 percent.

To make up for the lack of hydroelectric energy, the West is turning to natural gas, wind and solar — all more expensive than hydro.

What does this mean for the aggregates industry? It means producers in certain areas may already be facing higher energy costs, and those who haven’t are likely to face them as the drought continues.

If the industry has any positive takeaway from all of this, it’s that the increased use of natural gas power in the West could help frac sand producers in the Midwest. And with oil prices down in 2015, they could use all the help they can get.

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY

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About the Author:

Darren Constantino is an editor of Pit & Quarry magazine. He can be reached at dconstantino@northcoastmedia.net.

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