Officials of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reported Tuesday, July 16 that the utility continues to make substantial progress toward its Community Wildfire Safety Program (CWSP) goals, intended to mitigate the risk of wildfires and protect customers and communities.
“We’ve accomplished a lot, but there is more work to do. Our system is better today than it was yesterday, and it will be better tomorrow than it is today. We are committed to further reduce wildfire risks and help keep our customers and the communities we serve safe,” said Sumeet Singh, PG&E vice president of the Community Wildfire Safety Program.
Here are updates on the various facets of the Community Wildfire Safety Program.
Wildfire Safety Inspection Program (WSIP): Visual inspections of 96 percent and aerial inspections of 92 percent of approximately 50,000 transmission structures in high fire-risk areas. Inspections of all 222 substations in high fire-risk areas. Inspections of more than 99 percent of nearly 700,000 distribution poles in, or adjacent to, high fire-risk areas.
Wildfire Safety Operations Center (WSOC): The 24/7 command center for PG&E’s wildfire monitoring and response opened in 2018. The WSOC, based in PG&E’s San Francisco headquarters, has received technological and facility upgrades in 2019.
Weather stations: These provide hyper-local information and increase situational awareness. Approximately 430 have been installed since 2018, including 231 so far this year. PG&E will have 600 in place by the end of 2019 and 1,300 by 2022.
High-definition wildfire cameras: An effective tool for early spotting of wildfires, 31 cameras have been installed so far with a goal of 100 in place by the end of 2019 and 600 by 2022.
Enhanced vegetation management: Work to keep trees and power lines separate continues. The 2019 forecast is to prune or remove approximately 375,000 trees along approximately 2,500 miles of distribution lines. More than 50 percent of the line miles have been inspected so far with 20 percent cleared.
Reclosers: These devices shorten a power outage by sending a live pulse when an issue is detected. On days of higher wildfire risk, this functionality is turned off for safety. In 2019, PG&E added remote-functioning capability to all operational line reclosers in High-Fire Threat District (HFTD) Tiers 2 and 3 (737 devices with remote capabilities.) This work was completed by June 1 and will further increase the ability to isolate and minimize the scope of PSPS events by sectionalizing portions of circuits within HFTD Tiers 2 and 3. The utility will do additional sectionalizing over the next five-plus years.
Helicopters: In June, PG&E finalized the agreement with CAL FIRE to make four PG&E-owned heavy-duty helicopters available at CAL FIRE’s discretion to support fire response and suppression activities as needed. (These helicopters are used for normal PG&E maintenance & operations activities when not required by CAL FIRE.)
Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS): The first PSPS event of 2019 took place in June. Customer and stakeholder communications, including open houses and workshops, continue. Customers should make sure their contact information is updated at www.pge.com/mywildfirealerts.
System hardening and resiliency: So far in 2019, PG&E has completed installing stronger and more resilient poles and covered power lines on 44 circuit miles with a goal of completing 150 circuit miles in 2019 and 7,100 miles in high fire-threat areas in the next 10 years.
Pilot resilience zones: By the end of the 2019, the goal is to have at least one resilience zone operationalized. Construction is ongoing on the first pilot in Angwin in Napa County. The resilience zone is designed to be quickly isolated from the broader electric grid when a PSPS is initiated and to receive power from temporary mobile generation connected to a new pre-installed interconnection hub. Additional grid hardening was recently added to the scope of the pilot project to maximize risk reduction, which extended the operational target beyond June 1 to the end of 2019.
Additionally, PG&E has begun daily aerial fire detection patrols across thousands of miles of its service area. This is the sixth year for these patrols which assist the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and local fire agencies with early fire detection and response. Early detection of smoke or fire allows fire agencies to quickly respond to accurate locations. The patrols began on June 1 and will run until Oct. 31, depending upon conditions. Seven planes will fly daily routes from late afternoon until dusk, the time of day when wildfires are most likely to start.
For more detailed information on the various portions of the Community Wildfire Safety Program, visit the website, www.pge.com/wildfiresafety.