A conversation with Kaya Laterman, who recently wrote about the growing number of microgrid communities in the country.
For all of California’s many charms, living here isn’t always easy.
There’s the astronomical cost of housing, of course, and the seemingly constant threat of catastrophe, whether from earthquakes, fires or extreme heat. Especially as the effects of climate change increase, disaster often seems to be lurking right around the corner.
This newsletter recently covered the increasing popularity in California of “disaster-proof” homes, built to better withstand high winds and temperatures, and to limit entry points for wildfire embers. And last year, my colleague Ivan Penn wrote about Californians who, out of frustration with blackouts and rising utility prices in our warming world, are opting to live off the grid.
Here’s another way Californians are trying to adapt: microgrid communities. Kaya Laterman recently wrote about them in The New York Times.
These are energy-resilient communities that can operate independently from a larger municipal electrical system when necessary, by generating their own electricity (often using solar panels) and storing it in batteries for later use.
The goal is for the communities to be able to withstand power outages, something that feels increasingly necessary in a time of worsening wildfires and devastating heat waves.
Kaya told me that she had long been interested in how utilities hope to keep up with energy demand, as the country shuts down nuclear power plants and deals with aging power infrastructure, storage issues and other challenges.
“It’s scary to read headlines where people don’t have water, or blackouts happen 20 times a year,” Kaya said. “That’s frightening to me. So when I hear about ideas that can keep powering everyone’s lights, it intrigues me, especially at a time when the country is trying to produce, store and use more green energy to reduce carbon emissions.”
A new microgrid community in Menifee, about 80 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, bills itself as the state’s first all-electric residential community. Residents began to move in during the spring.
The development will include about 200 houses, each with its own heat pump, solar panels and battery to store surplus solar energy. In an emergency, the community can power itself with stored energy from a communal battery.
Dan Bridleman, senior vice president of sustainability, technology and strategic sourcing for KB Home, the company behind the project, said the Menifee microgrid would help demonstrate “whether an entire community can become self-sufficient with power.”
He added, “We wanted to do something that seemed disruptive but will eventually become the standard.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom has opposed a state trucking bill that would effectively ban driverless big rigs until the State Legislature authorizes them, Politico reports.
Democratic lawmakers in California have introduced a bill that would allow striking workers to receive unemployment benefits while on the picket line.
A federal lawsuit alleges that Los Angeles County is failing to provide older foster children with appropriate homes, abandoning them to long stints of homelessness and couch-surfing, The Los Angeles Times reports.
An Orange County man who used stolen identities to steal more than $400,000 worth of vehicles from car dealerships was sentenced to 11 years in state prison, The Los Angeles Times reports.
An inactive water volcano off the coast of central California is also the site of scores of upside-down octopuses.
Theresa Cook, who was from the Sacramento region, was the first tourist to be identified as a victim of the deadly wildfires in Maui, The Sacramento Bee reports.
The New York Times technology reporter Cade Metz recently discussed San Francisco’s autonomous taxis on “The Daily.”
Today’s tip comes from Sarah Wauters, who recommends a trip to the Eastern Sierra near Bishop and Mammoth Lakes during the summer:
“Take the Rock Creek Trail up to Ruby Lake. Only two miles and 1,000-foot elevation gain — so it’s a good hike with just rain gear, snacks and water in your pack. It’s rare to get up so high so quickly and experience the towering rocks and snow fields of the Sierra.
“Visit Wild Willy’s Hot Springs: There are several pools and a convivial atmosphere. The hot springs are surrounded by an Alaska-like scene — a broad prairie between the High Sierra on one side and an arid mountain range on the other, grazing cattle and waving wildflowers. The march of the clouds across the sky and the light show across the prairie floor as they pass are glorious. I saw a full double rainbow as I drove from the hot springs to Mammoth one evening.
Mammoth is a ski town and looks rather bare in the summer, but it has many options for lodging and eating. I enjoyed Booky Joint, a bookstore with shelves of mountain- and nature-oriented titles (both used and new), as well as plenty of fiction.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
Southern California has welcomed two new furry residents: mountain lion kittens known as P-116 and P-117.
The kittens, a girl and a boy thought to have been born in May, were recently discovered roaming the Santa Susana Mountains, just north of Los Angeles, ABC7 reports. In a video that officials with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area posted on Facebook, the pair can be seen purring in their den at just 24 days old.
The litter is the 26th to be found at the Southern California den site, according to the National Park Service, which has been studying how mountain lions have adapted to urbanized conditions in the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Briana Scalia and Maia Coleman contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
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Soumya Karlamangla is the lead writer for the California Today newsletter, where she provides daily insights and updates from her home state. More about Soumya Karlamangla
What if Your Town Doubled as a Residential Power Grid? – The New York Times