Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune Workers cut tree limbs from power lines along Columbus Avenue in Medford on Wednesday.
Pacific Power says it has made significant investments in power grid infrastructure
Oregon regulators have passed new rules regarding power companies’ ability to shut off power to mitigate wildfire risk, but Pacific Power CEO says his company has made significant investments in southern Oregon to help avoid killlines – and to ensure the last resort effort affects as few people as possible.
New permanent rules adopted May 10 by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission establish specific reporting requirements for electric utilities owned by investors such as Pacific Power to notify state and local officials of the management of emergencies and the general public from public safety power outages due to the risk of wildfire.
When a power outage is likely to occur, the rules require power companies to first notify “public safety partners,” such as local emergency management agencies, the Department of Social Services of Oregon and critical facilities such as hospitals, communications facilities and others that “have the potential to threaten life, safety or disrupt essential socio-economic activities if their services are interrupted” with a detailed map of the power outage area.
The power company should notify people of the date and time the power outage will begin, an estimated duration, and the number of customers affected. They must provide status updates at least once every 24 hours until service is restored, let them know when lines start to be reactivated and when they expect service to be completely restored.
For customers and the general public, the electric utility must use “multiple media platforms to maximize customer reach, including but not limited to social media, radio, television, and press releases,” according to the order. It requires the company to provide a “24-hour means of contact” for customers and minimal status updates at 24-hour intervals until the conditions causing the power outage are over.
Pacific Power President and CEO Stefan Bird said Pacific Power’s parent company, PacifiCorp, has invested heavily in “grid hardening,” with about $300 million over the next six years.” just for resilience”.
PacifiCorp has created “one of the most sophisticated weather departments in the western United States,” Bird said in a Tuesday meeting with the Mail Tribune.
He described equipment in all 10 states and the 144,000 square miles it serves, as well as the resources the power company has to track winds and weather, with particular emphasis on areas prone to forest fires such as southern Oregon.
“We have now deployed a few hundred weather stations throughout this system – most of them concentrated in northern California and southern Oregon in our highest risk district areas. fire,” Bird said. “We want to look at a very granular level of information about what’s happening in real time.”
Bird plans to have 350 weather stations monitoring ground conditions across the network by the end of the year, which feed into the company’s weather centers equipped with “dedicated supercomputers”.
According to Bird, advanced weather forecasting and situational awareness systems rely on real-time data from ground-based weather stations.
PacifiCorp’s in-house forecasting and risk assessment systems combine new weather data with 30 years of historical data, allowing Weather Center employees to highlight risk areas and direct field teams to strengthen the weak points of the network.
A Pacific Power wildfire safety and preparedness webinar was held earlier this year for customers the company serves in Northern California, and similar presentations for customers in Oregon and Washington will be held. at a later date.
New digital switches and monitors on the company’s latest power lines allow the agency more granular shutdowns, some of which are remote.
“As we continue to invest, this volume of customers that would be impacted…may be reduced.”
It’s part of a series of wildfire mitigation plans that began across the state of California in 2019 and were catalyzed by the November 2018 Camp Fire, which was caused by a line of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company which ultimately wiped out the northern California town of Paradise and left 86 people dead. Bird said that since 2019, PacifiCorp has rolled out similar detailed plans for Oregon and Washington.
“That’s when we took what we learned in California for a decade and immediately rolled it out to all the rest of our states,” Bird said.
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