California Tempers Flare: Will Power Outages Prevent Wildfires?

(TNS) — Classes were canceled. Frozen foods melted. Hospitals switched to emergency generators. Blooms withered in florists’ coolers. Unused food was jettisoned at shuttered restaurants. Lines formed at gas stations. Cellphones faded out.

That’s what happened Wednesday when the state’s largest utility shut off power to millions of Californians in a drastic attempt to avoid the killer wildfires that have charred hundreds of thousands of acres, caused billions of dollars in damage and spurred cries for widespread change in how electricity is delivered over the state’s aging grid.

Nearly 800,000 in NorCal Having Power Shut Off to Avert Wildfire

(TNS) - In a historic move to avert another fiery disaster, PG&E is turning off power to as many as 800,000 customers in Northern and Central California Wednesday, prompting residents, schools, businesses and local officials to make hurried plans to cope without electricity possibly for several days.

With wind speeds expected between 40 mph and 70 mph over sunbaked land Wednesday and Thursday, the state’s largest utility opted to preemptively cut power in parts of 34 counties, including Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties in the North Bay.

PG&E, driven into bankruptcy in January facing about $30 billion in liabilities for the 2017 wildfires, adopted temporary power shut-offs as a key part of its wildfire prevention plan. A majority of those catastrophic blazes were attributed to the company’s equipment.

Possible Power Shutoffs as Fire Threatens in Northern California

(TNS) - Critical fire weather is threatening California, as high winds, low humidity and dry conditions combine to form a sometimes lethal mix, the National Weather Service warned Monday.

A red flag warning is in effect for more than 3.8 million Northern Californians for the next three days, as wind gusts blow through the region.

In Southern California, Santa Ana winds will carry in warmer temperatures along with elevated fire dangers, forecasters said.

Wildfire Risks Spark a Move to Microgrids in California

(TNS) — In his standard blue jeans and unbuttoned flannel shirt, David Liebman could blend in with many of the young students walking to and from classes at Santa Rosa Junior College.

But Liebman, manager of energy and sustainability for the college district, has something bigger on his mind than class assignments and midterm projects.

Liebman, 27, is heading a $5 million electrical infrastructure project that addresses climate change and fundamentally will transform the way energy is distributed and used on campus.

PG&E Shut-offs Could be Catastrophic, California Officials Say

(TNS) - Northern California communities hit by some of the worst wildfires the state has ever seen are now preparing for another kind of disaster: prolonged power shut-offs caused intentionally by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

PG&E has used its aggressive new strategy to prevent its equipment from starting another fire only on one weekend so far this year. But the utility is poised to turn off the lights much more in the coming months as hot, dry and windy weather persists during the most dangerous part of wildfire season.

The impacts may be extreme and unprecedented, cutting entire cities off from the electric grid for several days in the worst-case scenarios. In those instances, stoplights and even cell phones could stop working properly, local officials say, snarling traffic and hamstringing residents’ ability to communicate.

Electricity Grid Cybersecurity Will Be Expensive — Who Will Pay, and How Much?

Recently, a neighbor asked one of us whether Russia, China, North Korea and Iran really are capable of hacking into the computers that control the U.S. electricity grid. The answer, based on available evidence, is “Yes.” The follow-up question was, “How expensive will it be to prevent, and who will end up paying for it?”

The answers are: Likely tens of billions of dollars, and probably us, the electricity customers. This is a major — and, in our view, vital — investment in community and national security. But as scholars of grid cybersecurity, we understand it’s not very clear what consumers will be getting for their money, nor whether utility companies themselves should bear some share of the cost.

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