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The California Public Utility Commission has established a requirement for electric utility companies to develop and submit a plan to reduce the risk of fire ignitions caused by overhead facilities located in high fire-threat areas during an extreme wildfire event.
As the wildfire season of 2020 is approaching, some of California’s utilities have adopted the Public Safety Power Shutoff plan as part of their Community Wildfire Safety Program. According to the utilities, in an extreme fire situation, there could be a portion of the electric system serving your area that would be exposed to risks of fire ignitions.
In this scenario, it may be necessary for a utility to disconnect the power lines that serve that area. The Public Safety Power Shutoff program applies for all electric lines that are located within high fire-threat areas; however, customers located outside of these areas should still plan to take precautions.
If the power lines affected by the wildfire are distribution lines, then the impact on the power grid should be minor. However, if the area affects transmission lines, then the impact on the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors in a large area could be radical, with the possibility of affecting millions of customers.
The CPUC has developed a list of climatological parameters to help determine the necessity of a shutoff. If the conditions indicate a risk of wildfires, a utility will program a shutoff in advance. The general scope follows these conditions:
· Red Flag warning has been declared by the National Weather Service
· Forecasted high-speed winds of 25mph
· Site conditions such as temperature, terrain, and climate
· Humidity levels below 20%
· Critically dry vegetation that could fuel a wildfire
· Real-time observations
The lack of electric service represents substantial production and sales losses for the industrial and commercial sectors. In the residential sector, the impact of a blackout is dependent on its duration. Brief shutoffs that last for a few hours shouldn’t cause any major issues, however, longer outages that last for days can be detrimental to the food and supplies stored in your fridge and freezer. Outages are particularly dangerous for households with a patient using a CPAP machine: without proper preparation, outages can put the life of a loved one at risk.
Some utilities are making an effort to notify their customers between 24 and 48 hours before a shutoff through phone calls, text messages, and emails. However, it is suggested to create an emergency kit to prepare for every situation.
Fortunately, there is an even better solution to protect yourself and your home from the risks of a power shutoff.
The best way to prepare for contingency situations is to have a readily available backup power resource. Solutions like fuel powered backup generators only work during the contingency event, and are dependent on a fuel supply that could run out before the power turns back on.
However, battery-based solutions like the Electriq PowerPod utilize alternative energy to protect against both unexpected and programmed shutoffs.
The PowerPod is a completely integrated inverter and home battery backup solution that can be supplemented with solar power to provide an independent source of power during contingency events.
The product can be used as a grid-tied battery backup solution to any PV system and can be easily integrated into an existing PV system by using an AC-coupled configuration. There are multiple operating modes such as backup storage, self-consumption, and Time-of-Use (TOU), that allow you to optimize your PV generation during normal operating conditions. The PowerPod’s ability to store energy before a shutoff allows owners to save money and rest assured that a shutoff won’t leave them completely powerless.
With the increasing prevalence of natural disasters brought on by climate change, we can only expect power shutoffs to become more necessary and more frequent.
Utility companies are faced with the challenge of protecting the stability of the power grid, while also taking into account the safety of their customers and employees. Damaged power lines or transformers can lead to loose power cables or explosions that are extremely dangerous, making it necessary to completely shut off the power so that firefighters, police department personnel, and other safety crew members can safely work to control the wildfire.
If you are part of the Californian population, unfortunately, power shutoffs are inevitable, but alternative energy sources such as the Electriq Power: PowerPod can provide a reliable backup source of power during shutoffs while optimizing your solar energy generation.