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PG&E installing new devices to limit outage sizes during future power shut-offs

PG&E power shut-offs
KION

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The rest of 2020 could include a pandemic and more public safety power shut-offs, but this year PG&E says they will be shorter and less extensive.

It’s unclear if or when there could be PG&E power shut-offs this year, but 2020 has already been an active fire season on the Central Coast because of a dry winter.

“Our fuels are turning very quickly, so the potential is here locally,” Cal Fire CZU Chief Ian Larkin said.

PG&E’s goal this year is to reduce the number of customers affected by potential PSPS events by nearly one-third compared to last year.

PG&E said the utility is installing more than 600 sectionalizing devices capable of redirecting power and limiting the size of outages so fewer communities are without power.

“We’ll be able to look at the areas impacted, and we’ll be able to take some of that power in that area and redirect it to other lines to keep those areas with power during times of high fire risk,” PG&E spokesperson Katie Allen said.

PG&E is also installing micro-grids that use generators to keep the lights on for communities.

Last fall, parts of all three counties on the Central Coast experienced the power shut-offs. It was something many in the Santa Cruz Mountains were well equipped for.

“It wasn’t that bad an inconvenience. We did lose some things out of the refrigerator,” Felton resident Bud Stuckey said.

Stuckey is almost completely self-sustaining. He and his wife grow fruits, vegetables and flowers. However, this year his plan is to get a generator and a freezer to save some of his garden food.

“You have to kind of plan ahead for those expenses, because those two items are like buying a car,” Stuckey said.

Cal Fire said PSPS will be more likely when there's low humidity and strong wind.

“Red flag warnings where we have high winds in the areas. Where they’ve designated those tier 3 or tier 2 areas of the county, those are there to prevent a wildfire from starting from a downed power line,” Larkin said.

In addition to making the power shut offs more widespread, PG&E is also hoping to cut the lengths of the shut offs in half.

Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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