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Western Price Survey

September 18, 2015
Wildfires Damage Transmission Lines

Utilities across the Western U.S. are working to repair power lines and restore service knocked out by wildfires across the region.

Grid reliability has not been an issue despite the numerous fires taking transmission off line, accord-ing to Cal-ISO.

"At the height of the fires, we had 14 lines either forced out of service or taken out of service to facili-tate firefighting," said Steven Greenlee, Cal-ISO senior public information officer. Most of these were out of service the first day or two of the fires. Only two lines remain out of service.

During the Valley Fire -- which has affected Lake, Napa, and Sonoma counties and was 40 per-cent contained as of Sept. 18 -- a total of six lines were out of service; one 60 kV line remains out of service and is expected to return to service Sept. 18. The Lumpkin Fire in Butte County, fully contained as of Sept. 17, took out a single 115 kV line that remains out of service.

Lines affected by the Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties and the Rough Fire in Fresno County are all now in service.

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"We were very lucky that none of these outages created system issues," said Cal-ISO Chief Execu-tive Steve Berberich at a Sept. 17 Board of Gover-nors meeting. "We still have to be vigilant until the rains come to see if we have any additional fires in the state."

Pacific Gas & Electric is actively working to repair its infrastructure, according to utility spokesperson Joe Molica. It is cooperating with Cal Fire in its Butte Fire investigation.

"While we don't have all the facts yet, a live tree may have contacted a PG&E line in the vicinity of the ignition point," stated Barry Anderson, PG&E vice president of emergency preparedness and operations, during a Sept. 16 Cal Fire briefing (see story at [9]).

During the Sept. 17 business meeting, Berberich addressed summer operating conditions.

"Many years, we have difficult operating chal-lenges at this time of year and it's been true to form," he said. Demand was forecast to peak at 49,056 MW on Sept. 10, but a combination of Southern California cloud cover lowering tempera-tures and the utilities engaging demand-response programs helped lower demand. Grid demand peaked at 47,358 MW that day, which is the year-to-date high. The all-time Cal-ISO peak demand of 50,270 MW was recorded July 24, 2006 [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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