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Old 8th October 2019, 07:56 PM   #1
Travis
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Northern California prepares to go without electricty

So in 2017 PG&E had an equipment failure during a windstorm, sparking a huge wildfire, a few thousand houses got burned down and a bunch of people died.


In 2018 PG&E had an equipment failure during a windstorm, sparking a huge wildfire, the whole town of Paradise burned down, loads of people died and Trump showed up afterward to mistakenly call the town "Pleasure."


Now here we are in 2019 with a windstorm approaching and the California government is telling PG&E it can't burn down anymore towns. PG&E says it can definitely do that.........by simply not providing electricity to anyone. And so tomorrow my entire county, along with multiple other ones, will be deactivated from the electrical grid. For who knows how many days we will be back to the preindustrial age until the windstorm passes and hopefully no more towns are burned down.


This is all perfectly normal and definitely not a sign of a changing climate or anything.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:06 PM   #2
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Maybe a sign that the power infrastructure in California was built out without much regard to maintainability?
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:22 PM   #3
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And maybe a sign that PG&E can't (or won't) take another hit in the shorts.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:36 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
....
Now here we are in 2019 with a windstorm approaching and the California government is telling PG&E it can't burn down anymore towns. PG&E says it can definitely do that.........by simply not providing electricity to anyone. And so tomorrow my entire county, along with multiple other ones, will be deactivated from the electrical grid. For who knows how many days we will be back to the preindustrial age until the windstorm passes and hopefully no more towns are burned down.
....

I found this hard to believe. But apparently it's true.
Quote:
SAN FRANCISCO — Millions of people were poised to lose electricity throughout northern and central California after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced Tuesday it would shut off power in the largest preventive outage in state history to try to avert wildfires caused by faulty lines.

PG&E PCG, -5.22% said it would begin turning off power to 800,000 customers in 34 counties starting after midnight Wednesday amid forecasts of windy, dry weather that create extreme fire danger. To the south, Southern California Edison also said Tuesday that more than 106,000 of its customers in parts of eight counties could face power cuts.
And I would imagine any one "customer" could be a household with any number of people or a business with any number of employees. Millions of people in the dark.

I hope everybody stockpiled candles.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:41 PM   #5
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It's safe to assume that 99.99% of situations that require electricity to literally sustain life have a backup generator. But the .01% that don't will have someone counting the minutes until power is back on.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:50 PM   #6
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When I lived in CA, every time there was a storm the power went out anyway. Fortunately, it being Central CA, those storms were pretty rare.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:57 PM   #7
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In Victoria Australia we learnt our lesson after Black Saturday. Caused by fallen power lines.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Saturday_bushfires

Since then many millions of dollars have been spent ensuring power lines do not spark fires. I’m confident we will get through fire season without power outages.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:59 PM   #8
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The equipment that failed in '17 and '18 was the transmission wires themselves. Wind brings the wires into contact with dry branches or other vegetation by displacing the wires or the vegetation or both. The resulting electrical arcs start wildfires.

Turning it off makes sense. Is someone out there arguing against this? "Who cares if the place burns down, as long as they keep the power on?"
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Old 8th October 2019, 09:30 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
The equipment that failed in '17 and '18 was the transmission wires themselves. Wind brings the wires into contact with dry branches or other vegetation by displacing the wires or the vegetation or both. The resulting electrical arcs start wildfires.

Turning it off makes sense. Is someone out there arguing against this? "Who cares if the place burns down, as long as they keep the power on?"
I'm not an engineer, but I would think it would be possible to insulate the wires better so they wouldn't start fires so easily, or trim trees around them to reduce chance of contact, or install devices that would automatically shut off electricity in a limited area when a line breaks or under other specific circumstances, etc. etc. The idea of shutting off power to millions of people indefinitely, with its own costs and risks, based on the notion that something bad might happen somewhere seems extreme in the extreme.
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Old 8th October 2019, 09:31 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Turning it off makes sense. Is someone out there arguing against this? "Who cares if the place burns down, as long as they keep the power on?"
My Neighbor's home burned down a few weeks ago. I live in South San Francisco in a little neighborhood at the foot of San Bruno Mountain. Everything was bone dry at the time of this fire and it still is. Normally high winds blow through these hills but that morning (roughly 2 AM iirc) the was no wind at all and the firefighters easily got it under control. This could've gone very badly for our neighbors and I if it was typically windy.

Cut the power where I live?

Yes please.

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Old 8th October 2019, 09:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by AJM8125 View Post
My Neighbor's home burned down a few weeks ago. I live in South San Francisco in a little neighborhood at the foot of San Bruno Mountain. Everything was bone dry at the time of this fire and it still is. Normally high winds blow through these hills but that morning (roughly 2 AM iirc) the was no wind at all and the firefighters easily got it under control. This could've gone very badly for our neighbors and I if it was typically windy.

Cut the power where I live?

Yes please.
https://i.imgur.com/sNNxnSP.jpg
But what was the cause of the fire? Would shutting off the electricity have prevented it? If only one house burned, maybe the power lines weren't the problem.
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Old 8th October 2019, 09:41 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
But what was the cause of the fire?
Global warming. It's the cause of every fire, apparently.
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Old 8th October 2019, 09:46 PM   #13
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The places involved include Oakland and San Jose and much of Silicon Valley, including Palo Alto. That said it seems like a reasonable precaution given the last two fires you mention.
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Old 8th October 2019, 10:36 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Bogative View Post
Global warming. It's the cause of every fire, apparently.

Not every fire but the ones in October and November, months when it used to rain when I was a wee one, definitely are. The fire season would end in September now it extends right on up almost to December.

And I think people have a right to be pissed because PG&E could have spent resources maintaining their equipment and keeping vegetation away from it instead they are now just not delivering power to millions of people for days in order to insulate themselves from the consequences of their ineptitude.
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Old 8th October 2019, 11:23 PM   #15
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With such an unreliable and poorly maintained electrical grid, people are expected to give up their combustion-engine vehicles for electric?
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Old 9th October 2019, 12:21 AM   #16
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PG&E needs to be burnt to the ground.
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Old 9th October 2019, 12:46 AM   #17
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Well twelve hours before the big power shutdown our phone system just crapped out. I mean no mobile or landline calls. Some huge breakdown. They had better get that fixed before phones are our only means of communicating.
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Old 9th October 2019, 06:07 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
Not every fire but the ones in October and November, months when it used to rain when I was a wee one, definitely are. The fire season would end in September now it extends right on up almost to December.

And I think people have a right to be pissed because PG&E could have spent resources maintaining their equipment and keeping vegetation away from it instead they are now just not delivering power to millions of people for days in order to insulate themselves from the consequences of their ineptitude.

This is a win/win situation for the environment. PG&E is not only going to prevent CO2 from wildfires, they are preventing CO2 that would've been emitted into the atmosphere from the electricity used over the next several days.

PG&E should be applauded for their contribution to end global warming.
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Old 9th October 2019, 06:34 AM   #19
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Wow.

I guess at some point the California government must have crossed the line from "reasonable accountability and working with PG&E to make good on its mistakes" to "draconian scapegoat shenanigans".

PG&E lines have been the source of some wildfires. But the number, extent, and damages of these fires have several contributing factors, the vast majority of which are not under PG&E control.

"If this happens again, you'll regret it" is an attractive policy, but "you'll regret it so much that it's safer for you to just stop working with us at all" is not. Damn PG&E, but... Double-damn California. Handle your ****, people.
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Old 9th October 2019, 07:52 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
I'm not an engineer, but I would think it would be possible to insulate the wires better so they wouldn't start fires so easily, or trim trees around them to reduce chance of contact, or install devices that would automatically shut off electricity in a limited area when a line breaks or under other specific circumstances, etc. etc. The idea of shutting off power to millions of people indefinitely, with its own costs and risks, based on the notion that something bad might happen somewhere seems extreme in the extreme.

It is possible to insulate the wires, but that's an expensive retrofit that would/will take years. (I suspect it will be done in northern CA, if it's not already underway.) I'm not a civil engineer either, but if I had to guess the cost, it's got to be at least $250K per mile, more likely a million or so. About four million per mile for moving them underground. A public utility has to get permission from regulatory agencies before making expenditures like that. Until recently, it wasn't necessary, so no one wanted to pay for it.

Trimming trees certainly makes sense, and recently PGE has been claiming to make an all-out effort to do that. (It's quite plausible that that was neglected in prior years, though.) I don't think they're allowed to widen the corridor (which would add up to millions tens of thousands of acres of forest cleared) and if they were, that too would be a huge long-term project. And it's also not feasible to clear all the low dry vegetation from the ground, so when wires come down, they're still going to spark fires.

Power grids have cut-off mechanisms, but those systems can't prevent arcs. Consider how your house wiring works: you unknowingly plug a defective short-circuited appliance into an outlet; there's a little spark, and the breaker trips. The breaker doesn't trip before the spark. If it was sensitive enough to do that, it would be falsely tripping frequently from normal fluctuations in usage, such as when you turn things on or in the normal cycling of home systems. Frequent false automatic cut-offs isn't something you want happening in the power grid.

So, though improvements will be made in coming years, what you have in northern CA's power grid is fragility. This is partly due to climate change helping to cause the conditions that stress the fragile state of the system (it wasn't designed to handle dry forest conditions well), but the fragility itself is more fundamental, and applies in various ways and to various extents to all of the infrastructure of the U.S. Maintenance is neglected not just because people are lazy or shortsighted, but because the U.S. has more infrastructure than it can afford to maintain. That makes actual improvements to deal with changing conditions, which tend to be quite costly, even harder to manage. Fragility is everywhere. Somebody notices a crack in a bridge, and the next morning you suddenly discover that your commute to work will take two hours longer for the next few years. Everyone complains, "why wasn't that bridge maintained better?" while a hundred thousand other bridges continue to rust.
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Old 9th October 2019, 07:54 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Maybe a sign that the power infrastructure in California was built out without much regard to maintainability?
Or has been poorly maintained since it was first built.
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Old 9th October 2019, 07:57 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
I'm not an engineer, but I would think it would be possible to insulate the wires better so they wouldn't start fires so easily, or trim trees around them to reduce chance of contact, or install devices that would automatically shut off electricity in a limited area when a line breaks or under other specific circumstances, etc. etc. The idea of shutting off power to millions of people indefinitely, with its own costs and risks, based on the notion that something bad might happen somewhere seems extreme in the extreme.
Trimming trees is the way to go, but that's going to take a whole lot of tree trimming. I believe very few electrical overhead electrical wires are insulated.

More high tech solutions, such as systems that automatically shut down power over smaller areas when local weather stations report high winds, or things that shut off power if power fluctuations suggest lines coming in contact with things might also be useful.

But I suspect that just clearing trees, lots of them, if the most viable short term strategy - which will be fought tooth and nail by many who (ironically) are most at risk from such fires.
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Old 9th October 2019, 07:58 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
I'm not an engineer, but I would think it would be possible to insulate the wires better so they wouldn't start fires so easily, or trim trees around them to reduce chance of contact, or install devices that would automatically shut off electricity in a limited area when a line breaks or under other specific circumstances, etc. etc. The idea of shutting off power to millions of people indefinitely, with its own costs and risks, based on the notion that something bad might happen somewhere seems extreme in the extreme.
Sounds expensive.
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Old 9th October 2019, 08:24 AM   #24
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I live just a few miles north of the cut off for the PG&E outage. That has not stopped people peoples fears around here. A few of my neighbors have moved here after losing their homes in the past couple of years to fire. Those people, in particular, are losing sleep and are stressed.

We have had an unusual amount of heat all Summer, and now, with Fall here, it is still hot, dry, and windy. A perfect storm.
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Old 9th October 2019, 08:42 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Bogative View Post
Global warming. It's the cause of every fire, apparently.
Anyone see a vague human pile of straw blow past?
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Old 9th October 2019, 08:55 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
So in 2017 PG&E had an equipment failure during a windstorm, sparking a huge wildfire, a few thousand houses got burned down and a bunch of people died.


In 2018 PG&E had an equipment failure during a windstorm, sparking a huge wildfire, the whole town of Paradise burned down, loads of people died and Trump showed up afterward to mistakenly call the town "Pleasure."


Now here we are in 2019 with a windstorm approaching and the California government is telling PG&E it can't burn down anymore towns. PG&E says it can definitely do that.........by simply not providing electricity to anyone. And so tomorrow my entire county, along with multiple other ones, will be deactivated from the electrical grid. For who knows how many days we will be back to the preindustrial age until the windstorm passes and hopefully no more towns are burned down.


This is all perfectly normal and definitely not a sign of a changing climate or anything.
I lived in California for a little over one year with my father who was a native son. I had lived most of my life in Georgia in Atlanta. This was in 1979. I could sense negativity all around. Not sure what it was but I felt it. Perhaps it was a small earthquake or a tad of civil unease but I had had enough. I went back to Georgia and never returned except for a yearly visit to my Dad and my Aunt. They both died and I never returned.
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Old 9th October 2019, 08:56 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
Or has been poorly maintained since it was first built.
Probably. California needs a lot of energy, at affordable prices. And it's still recovering from the Enron mess. Sooner or later, something's gotta give.

To the degree that PG&E cut corners, that's on them, and they should be held to account.

But.

Nobody in their right minds wants to turn accountability into a scenario where PG&E's best play is to simply stop providing services. The idea is for PG&E to maintain its lines and compensate people when it falls short of its responsibilities. The idea is not for PG&E to just stop sending power down the line.

We want PG&E to play ball. We don't want them to take their ball and sit out the game.

Regardless of who's right or wrong, the California government has a serious responsibility to figure out how to get PG&E back to the negotiating table. If that means dismissing some of the valid complaints against the power company, then so be it.

I blame PG&E for much of what has happened so far. But if this situation continues, I'm going to hold California increasingly responsible for it.
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Old 9th October 2019, 09:03 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Probably. California needs a lot of energy, at affordable prices. And it's still recovering from the Enron mess. Sooner or later, something's gotta give.

To the degree that PG&E cut corners, that's on them, and they should be held to account.

But.

Nobody in their right minds wants to turn accountability into a scenario where PG&E's best play is to simply stop providing services. The idea is for PG&E to maintain its lines and compensate people when it falls short of its responsibilities. The idea is not for PG&E to just stop sending power down the line.

We want PG&E to play ball. We don't want them to take their ball and sit out the game.

Regardless of who's right or wrong, the California government has a serious responsibility to figure out how to get PG&E back to the negotiating table. If that means dismissing some of the valid complaints against the power company, then so be it.

I blame PG&E for much of what has happened so far. But if this situation continues, I'm going to hold California increasingly responsible for it.

In a capitalist environment they'd be able to move to a different supplier.
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Old 9th October 2019, 10:34 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
In a capitalist environment they'd be able to move to a different supplier.
Only if there was another supplier that had the same capacity as PG&E
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Old 9th October 2019, 10:45 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Elagabalus View Post
PG&E needs to be burnt to the ground.
How would that solve anything?
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Old 9th October 2019, 10:47 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
In a capitalist environment they'd be able to move to a different supplier.
So? Is that the solution you're proposing? Laissez-faire deregulation of California's energy market?

ETA: Actually, WTF does this have to do with anything I said? The fact is, such a supplier does not exist. Whatever solution California needs to come up with, for the current crisis, it can't be that one. Do you have something to contribute that *isn't* a non sequitur?

---

I mean, if another player were willing and able to pick up the slack, then driving PG&E off the playing field with draconian demands might actually be a wise strategy. Absent that other player, such a strategy seems pretty foolish.

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Old 9th October 2019, 10:55 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
So? Is that the solution you're proposing? Laissez-faire deregulation of California's energy market?
How you got from what I wrote to that is a stunning leap. Well done. No, that's not what I'm proposing. I'm not actually proposing anything.


Quote:
ETA: Actually, WTF does this have to do with anything I said? The fact is, such a supplier does not exist. Whatever solution California needs to come up with, for the current crisis, it can't be that one. Do you have something to contribute that *isn't* a non sequitur?
Your statement made me think that, so I posted it. I'm not sure this all needs to be call and response, does it? If there's some sort of strict requirement for replies to be a direct answer and only a direct answer to the question and only the question posed in the quoted post then I cn go with that, but I wasn't aware it was required.


Quote:

---

I mean, if another player were willing and able to pick up the slack, then driving PG&E off the playing field with draconian demands might actually be a wise strategy. Absent that other player, such a strategy seems pretty foolish.

And breathe.
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Old 9th October 2019, 11:06 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Cainkane1 View Post
I lived in California for a little over one year with my father who was a native son. I had lived most of my life in Georgia in Atlanta. This was in 1979. I could sense negativity all around. Not sure what it was but I felt it. Perhaps it was a small earthquake or a tad of civil unease but I had had enough. I went back to Georgia and never returned except for a yearly visit to my Dad and my Aunt. They both died and I never returned.
Fascinating.
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Old 9th October 2019, 11:07 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
So in 2017 PG&E had an equipment failure during a windstorm, sparking a huge wildfire, a few thousand houses got burned down and a bunch of people died.


In 2018 PG&E had an equipment failure during a windstorm, sparking a huge wildfire, the whole town of Paradise burned down, loads of people died and Trump showed up afterward to mistakenly call the town "Pleasure."


Now here we are in 2019 with a windstorm approaching and the California government is telling PG&E it can't burn down anymore towns. PG&E says it can definitely do that.........by simply not providing electricity to anyone. And so tomorrow my entire county, along with multiple other ones, will be deactivated from the electrical grid. For who knows how many days we will be back to the preindustrial age until the windstorm passes and hopefully no more towns are burned down.


This is all perfectly normal and definitely not a sign of a changing climate or anything.
Bwa ha ha ha! Primitive power systems.
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Old 9th October 2019, 11:08 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
The equipment that failed in '17 and '18 was the transmission wires themselves. Wind brings the wires into contact with dry branches or other vegetation by displacing the wires or the vegetation or both. The resulting electrical arcs start wildfires.

Turning it off makes sense. Is someone out there arguing against this? "Who cares if the place burns down, as long as they keep the power on?"
The argument is clearly not that they should turn the power off, its that they shouldn't have to. If they'd maintained their infrastructure as required by the various laws that give them a monopoly on power in N. California, then this wouldn't be a story.
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Old 9th October 2019, 12:29 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
The argument is clearly not that they should turn the power off, its that they shouldn't have to. If they'd maintained their infrastructure as required by the various laws that give them a monopoly on power in N. California, then this wouldn't be a story.
On the other hand, they still shouldn't have to turn the power off. Unless California has actually ordered them to turn the power off. But my understanding is that California wants them to keep the power on, but has accidentally (incompetently? intentionally? accidentally-on-purpose?) created a web of demands that makes turning the power off PG&E's best option.

The question is, is this the best option for California? Could California get a better outcome if they gave PG&E other options?

Also, yes obviously, if they'd done things differently - better - in the years leading up to today, they shouldn't have to turn the power off. But that's all moot now. The situation is what it is. Holding PG&E responsible for its past failings is all well and good, but it doesn't really solve the problem facing California today. Threatening PG&E with even more consequences for its past failings has apparently had the effect of convincing PG&E to avoid those consequences at all costs.

Well, "at all costs". In reality, PG&E seems to have determined that avoiding those consequences is actually a lower cost than inviting those consequences. I'm sure this isn't what California had in mind, when they threatened more consequences. Top. Men.

Last edited by theprestige; 9th October 2019 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 9th October 2019, 12:35 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
How you got from what I wrote to that is a stunning leap. Well done. No, that's not what I'm proposing. I'm not actually proposing anything.




Your statement made me think that, so I posted it. I'm not sure this all needs to be call and response, does it? If there's some sort of strict requirement for replies to be a direct answer and only a direct answer to the question and only the question posed in the quoted post then I cn go with that, but I wasn't aware it was required.
If you blurt out every non sequitur that pops into your head, stream-of-consciousness style, please don't complain that your blurtings are engaged at face value.
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Old 9th October 2019, 12:52 PM   #38
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Old 9th October 2019, 01:06 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
So in 2017 PG&E had an equipment failure during a windstorm, sparking a huge wildfire, a few thousand houses got burned down and a bunch of people died.


In 2018 PG&E had an equipment failure during a windstorm, sparking a huge wildfire, the whole town of Paradise burned down, loads of people died and Trump showed up afterward to mistakenly call the town "Pleasure."


Now here we are in 2019 with a windstorm approaching and the California government is telling PG&E it can't burn down anymore towns. PG&E says it can definitely do that.........by simply not providing electricity to anyone. And so tomorrow my entire county, along with multiple other ones, will be deactivated from the electrical grid. For who knows how many days we will be back to the preindustrial age until the windstorm passes and hopefully no more towns are burned down.


This is all perfectly normal and definitely not a sign of a changing climate or anything.
Happy that ther in Sacramento I get my power from SMUD (Sacramento Municpal Utility District).
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Old 9th October 2019, 01:07 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
Or has been poorly maintained since it was first built.
The problem is that there are a number of power utilities in California;there is no one company or agency responsible for maintainece.
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