Op-Ed: California’s giant new batteries kept the lights on during the heat wave
This week, as I wrote this story, I was in Palo Alto in a city that is experiencing a record-breaking heat wave. The mercury climbed to 89 degrees on Monday. On Wednesday, it hit 100 degrees, and it had been up to 106 degrees when I arrived in the early afternoon on Thursday. The thermometers in Palo Alto registered over 102 degrees on Friday. As I walked up the hill to the main library in the central part of the city, it felt like I was walking on an oven. I had lunch yesterday in a restaurant around the corner from my office and was walking back home, when the temperature hit 107 degrees. Just as I reached the bottom of the hill, the thermometer on the building hit 103 degrees. The next thing I knew, I ran outside, fell down and started panting.
Palo Alto is probably one of the least known cities in California, which is partly what makes the situation so interesting. It is a city with lots of green spaces, but not nearly enough trees to take care of itself. When a heat wave hits, it does not do much good to have lots of trees and lots of green space. That is because the trees and green lawns absorb a lot of the heat. Trees and green spaces do not necessarily store heat, but they do help the environment by absorbing more of it.
When it is hot, the trees reflect sunlight and keep it from reaching the ground, where it would then warm the air as it would through the ground. In the winter, the trees reflect the sun’s rays back toward the sky, helping to keep the air cool and the thermometer low. In the summer, the trees send heat out through the canopy into the upper atmosphere, where it is absorbed by the air and the air rises. In the summer, as the trees in Palo Alto send heat upward, they also send cool