Bigger, longer blackouts could lie ahead in California

Firefighters with Cal Fire examine a burned down low voltage power pole during the Tick Fire, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif
.An estimated 50,000 people were under evacuation orders in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles as hot, dry Santa Ana winds howling at up to 50 mph (80 kph) drove the flames into neighborhoods (AP Photo/ Christian Monterrosa)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A wildfire in California wine country that may have been caused by a high-voltage transmission line called into question Pacific Gas & Electric’s strategy of selectively cutting off power in windy weather to prevent blazes and could force it to resort to even bigger blackouts affecting millions as early as this weekend. The repeated shut-offs and the prospect of longer and more widespread ones brought anger down on the utility from the governor and ordinary customers. “We will hold them to account,” warned Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has repeatedly blasted PG&E — the nation’s largest utility — for what he calls years of mismanagement and underinvestment that have left its grid less resilient. Twice over the past two weeks, PG&E has cut power to large areas of northern and central California to reduce the risk of its equipment sparking fires. Nearly 2 million people lost electricity earlier this month, and then as many as a half-million this week. But PG&E’s decision to shut down distribution lines but not long-distance transmission lines may have backfired this time when a blaze erupted near the Sonoma County wine country town of Geyserville. The fire burned at least 49 buildings and 34 square miles (65 square kilometers) and prompted evacuation orders for some 2,000 people. No serious injuries were reported. PG&E said a live, 230,000-volt transmission line near Geyserville had malfunctioned minutes before the fire erupted Wednesday night, and a broken “jumper” wire was found on a transmission tower. PG&E Corp. CEO Bill Johnson said it was too soon to say whether the faulty equipment sparked the fire. He said the tower had been inspected four times in the past two years and appeared to have been in excellent condition. The utility acknowledged that the discovery of the tower malfunction already had prompted a change in its strategy. “We have revisited and adjusted some of our standards and protocols in determining when we will de-energize high-voltage transmission lines,” Andrew Vesey, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., said at a briefing Friday night. With dangerously high winds in the forecast this weekend, the utility said it is planning another major shutdown that could hit more than 2 million people throughout the region starting Saturday afternoon and last up to two days. The preparations came as firefighters simultaneously battled flames in both Northern and Southern California: the fire amid Sonoma County’s vineyards, and a wind-whipped blaze that destroyed at least six homes in the Santa Clarita area near Los Angeles and led to evacuation orders covering an estimated 50,000 people. The possible link between the wine country fire and a PG&E transmission line contained grim parallels to the catastrophic fire last year that tore through the town of Paradise, killing 85 people and destroying thousands of homes in the deadliest U.S. fire in a century. State officials concluded that fire was sparked by a PG&E transmission line. The line that failed this week is newer and should have been more robust, said Michael Wara, director of the climate and energy program at Stanford University. Its failure will probably make PG&E more cautious, which means more widespread blackouts, he said. “There’s going to be more collateral damage,” Wara said. Turning off big transmission lines reduces the stability of the electrical grid, leading to bigger outages, Wara said. Transmissions lines also take longer to re-energize because everything connected to them must be inspected, he said. PG&E’s CEO has said it will take about a decade before widespread outages aren’t necessary. Minimizing blackouts will require PG&E to harden its grid with stronger poles and newer equipment less likely to fall or spark. Cameras, weather sensors and a more segmented grid would allow the company to target blackouts to areas in the most danger. PG&E began resorting to large-scale shut-offs after its equipment was blamed for several blazes in recent years that killed scores of people, burned thousands of homes and ran up billions of dollars in claims that drove the utility into bankruptcy, where it is still trying to put its finances in order. Nick Note: This is something out of Africa… The solution they have known for over 50 years. Countless studies have shown DC distribution is the way to go.. In fact  DC distribution systems are in use. They are more efficient then AC.  In AC wires only transmit the power on the skin of the wire. DC on the other hand uses the entire wire. Meaning wire size is much smaller. in fact their is such a system. Its called the Pacific DC Intertie (also called Path 65) whcih is an electric power transmission line that transmits electricity from the Pacific Northwest to the Los Angeles area using high voltage direct current (HVDC). The line capacity is 3,100 megawatts, which is enough to serve two to three million Los Angeles households and represents almost half of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) electrical system’s peak capacity.  The next step is to super cool the wires and bury them in tunnels.  This is proven technology. The difference in power loss and the smaller wire size means its a VAST cost saving venture over the 80 year life of the system. Now for the cheery on top. Super cooled DC power grids pay for them selves in less then a decade.  In the United States, a Continental SuperGrid 4,000 kilometers long might carry 40,000 to 80,000 MW in a tunnel shared with long distance high speed maglev trains, which at low pressure could allow cross continental journeys of one hour. The liquid hydrogen pipeline would both store and deliver hydrogen. In America something like 10% of all electricity generated is lost to inefficiency during transmission. In 2017, that was around 300 million mega-watt hours, or about $30 billion in monetary value PER YEAR!!!! . Now, replacing the electrical infrastructure of the United States is a decade endeavor even if we restrict such effort to major lines, maintaining regular wiring for local distribution. Still, efficient power transfer means we could build fewer power plants much farther from the communities they are intended to serve;The Japaneses have developed a system of super cooled underground distribution. It is amazing. I was pitched on the  system years ago… but its just not what i do. You mean CNN and the politicians have not told you about the easy efficient cost effective solution. WHY? well in third world corrupt countries innovation is scorned and even destroyed and the crumbling status quo is the norm. See you elect retards for your leaders who promise you a bigger hand out. And if America would modernize a new utopia would be born. But most people and their idiot leaders are stuck on 19th century technology. After America s nuked and decontaminated it will be a chance to start over with new thinking… I can’t wait! Now you can appreciate why i am constantly amazed at how stupid the world has become. Less then 10% of the technology already discovered has been utilized. So i say the wealthiest people in the wealthies stte in the world deerve to suffer shit hole black out and watching their dream homes burned down to the ground because of stupidity and corruption