TDPUD releases safety message, prepare for wildfire season power outages
TRUCKEE, Calif.— After the recent historic winter caused a delayed start to wildfire season, Truckee Donner Public Utility District is now urging customers to be prepared for the possibility of prolonged power outages in the summer and fall as the weather changes and the risk of fire increases in the region.
NV Energy, TDPUD’s energy transmission supplier, and TDPUD both take actions during wildfire season to help mitigate wildfire risk to the community, but these safety programs can result in electric power outages.
NV Energy PSOM
TDPUD does not generate power locally and is dependent on the transmission of electricity from its generation sources through the NV Energy system. NV Energy is continuing its wildfire safety de-energization program, referred to as Public Safety Outage Management, in which NV Energy will de-energize transmission lines that deliver power to Truckee- and likely the entire Truckee-North Tahoe region- during extreme weather conditions and elevated fire risk levels.
These PSOM outages will likely impact TDPUD’s entire customer base for periods ranging from one day to a few days. Unfortunately, TDPUD does not have control over the timing and duration of the outages. It will be based on NV Energy’s determination of the length of the extreme wildfire danger period, plus the time required for both NV Energy and TDPUD to virtually inspect 100% of the electric system to safely restore power.
TDPUD is collaborating with local emergency response and critical stakeholders to raise awareness of the NV Energy PSOM program can be found at nvenergy.com/psom and information on its impacts on TDPUD customers can be found at tdpud.org/psom.
TDPUD Wildfire Mitigation Practices
TDPUD takes a number of steps to reduce the risk of electric equipment starting a wildfire, from installing new equipment and changing operation protocols to a robust, year-round vegetation management program. One key safety practice is to disable circuit protection devices called “automatic circuit reclosers.”
A recloser is an automatic switch that is programmed to test the system after sensing a fault and then continue the transfer of energy if the fault was temporary, therefore avoiding an outage. This is helpful in common instances of contact with power lines, such as animals, tree branches or shedding snow. While reclosers have greatly improved TDPUD’s electric system reliability, they have the potential to contribute to wildfire ignition when a branch remains in contact with a line during the re-energization process.
During wildfire season, TDPUD disables this capability for the recloser to reset itself, but this means every fault becomes an outage, all of which require physical inspections of circuits prior to re-energization.
TDPUD also has a vegetation management program which focuses on keeping power lines and electric infrastructure clear of trees, branches and other vegetation, in order to decrease the likelihood of electric equipment igniting a wildfire. This program also improves TDPUD’s overall system reliability, as displayed this past winter. Crews work through the entirety of the system on a five-year cycle. Nearly nine miles of power line have been inspected and cleared this year to date, with another six miles planned before the year ends, along with a goal to clear vegetation from the base of 100 power poles this year.
Another key wildfire safety program is TDPUD’s ongoing project to replace existing expulsion fuses, which have been tied to wildfire ignition in other utilities, with a new safer technology called current-limiting fuses. TDPUD also has a program to inspect overhead electric poles and prioritize replacements in high-fire threat areas. The above are just a few of the steps TDPUD takes to mitigate the chance that overhead electric equipment is the cause of a catastrophic wildfire. TDPUD’s overall efforts are documented annually in the Wildfire Mitigation Plan which can be found at tdpud.org/wildfire-safety.
Stay Informed During Wildfire Season
TDPUD’s ability to communicate with customers and visitors during outages is key to making sure the community is well-prepared for these events. TDPUD is asking customers to confirm their contact information and sign up for automated alerts via text or email by visiting tdpud.org and clicking on My Account. Step-by-step instructions can be found at tdpud.org/outage. Customers can also call 530-587-3896 for assistance.
If an NV Energy PSOM is anticipated due to extreme fire danger, TDPUD will attempt to notify all customers between 48-24 hours ahead of the event, and again at 12-4 hours before the outage. Visitors and Truckee residents who are not the TDPUD account holder for their household can sign up for TDPUD emergency Nixle alerts by texting TDPUD to 333111.
“We need to be able to communicate with our customer base and larger community in the event of a PSOM outage; being prepared is a critical piece to keeping our community safe during wildfire season,” said TDPUD General Manager Brian Wright. “We are asking our customers to take a moment to make sure they are enrolled in our outage alert system with their correct contact information. A few minutes now will make all the difference when it’s needed most.”
Prepare for Wildfire Season Power Outages
Preparing for wildfire season power outages can include installing home backup power sources, identifying backup charging methods for phones and electronic devices, planning for medical needs (including power-dependent breathing machines, wheelchairs, dialysis, etc.), fueling vehicles to full, and planning for pets and livestock.
In the event of an NV Energy PSOM event, it is likely that electric power will be out for one to a few days. Because these events will be triggered by NV Energy’s assessment of weather conditions and fire risk, the TDPUD cannot reliably predict the timing or duration. Residents or businesses who can’t be without power should consider professionally installing a generator. All property owners should ensure there’s defensible space around homes and businesses. For additional information and resources visit tdpud.org/wildfire-safety.
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