July 30, 2019
Utilities Are Taking Action to Prevent Wildfires
With the devastating effects of last year’s wildfires still top of mind, it’s no wonder that utilities are vigilant about taking necessary action to reduce the risk of fires. While these disasters are caused by a number of factors, utilities are taking a proactive approach in doing what they can to prevent future wildfires. Here are some actions that utilities across the U.S. are already taking:
- Using AI and fire-watching cameras1
- Changing the positioning of power lines1
- Implementing planned blackouts
Utilities are looking to artificial intelligence and cameras to increase the efficiency of damage control during a fire. San Diego Gas & Electric uses AI to collect “tens of millions of data points” to improve responses to dangerous conditions. In recent years, they’ve taken to using a network of high-definition, pan-tilt-zoom cameras that monitor fires and allow first-responders to have the info they need to react appropriately. Pacific Gas & Electric also see the cameras as a necessary asset with a plan to install 600 cameras throughout its 70,000 square mile service area by 2022.
Utilities are putting safety first by changing their already existing structure. Florida Power & Light is spending $100 million over the next three years to put more of its power lines underground. San Diego Gas & Electric plans to both bury their power lines underground in high-risk fire areas and use an algorithm to detect faults on a line and turn it off before it hits the ground.
After a series of wildfires in 2007, San Diego Gas & Electric led the way with then unprecedented actions, including intentionally turning off power lines when weather conditions threatened to spark wildfires.1 Today, more and more utilities are opting for planned outages when extreme fire conditions occur. NV Energy, a Nevada utility that serves nearly 1.3 million customers, has joined at least four other western utilities, including Oregon-based Pacific Power, in planning to shut off power in areas that are a high risk for wildfires.2 Utilities can keep customers informed of these outages with maps such as Storm Center Outage Mapping, which allows your customers to login and view outage status information or report an outage at their home or business.
Whether utilities are adopting new technologies or rethinking their current structure, they have made it clear that preventing wildfires is their top priority. The vice president in charge of PG&E’s community wildfire safety program, Sumeet Singh, notes that utilities will have to share more data with each other “for the collective good of a safer industry.”