So just turn off the power when it's particularly hot, dry and windy, is not it? If only it was so easy.
In fact, this calculation is downright tortuous. Turn off the power and you risk the risk of the state utility commission: avoiding the danger of triggering a wildfire could end up breaking medical devices and critical infrastructure. A utility exists to continuously provide the power to earn money, of course, but also to keep the company humming.
"Turning off the power proactively to prevent forest fires is not a decision we take lightly," said PG & E spokesman Jeff Smith. "On the other hand, leaving the current on when there are ideal conditions for potential wildfires also entails risks."
To face a new examination of his Abyssal safety record after the campfire, PG & E twice last weekend extreme fire danger, known as the Public Safety Stop, or PSPS. In all the "season" of the fire of last year, which is a phenomenon all year long thanks to climate change, the utility has called a PSPS. The decision to call for the first two stops this year came just a few weeks after the establishment of the PUC. new guidelines how public services like PG & E should do it without jeopardizing public safety.
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All is well, but this more proactive approach alone will never solve the forest fires crisis in the Golden State. "California is built to burn and explode," said Stephen Pyne, a fire researcher at Arizona State University. "If people left tomorrow, there would still be fires in the Pacific Ocean – it's just a reality."
OK, so that we can not depopulate all of its 40 million inhabitants, how to solve the problem of forest fires? And what made it so bad in the first place?
Apart from power lines, the state is home to a host of conspiratorial factors that make it a powder keg. One is poor forest management: California has simply cleaned up enough scrub, which accumulates year after year until it burns dramatically. For decades, cities have been encroaching on wilderness areas, literally putting them in the line of fire. This is especially true in the corridors where autumn winds accumulate, fanning the flames. And all this falls under the umbrella of climate change, which made the California Autumn drier, leading to drier vegetation so that seasonal winds can cook and then become embers.
"I think we've all been a little surprised by the magnitude of climate change and the speed with which it has manifested itself," said Peter Lehman, founding director of the Schatz Energy Research Center. 39; Humboldt State University. "It's a new world for the electricity companies, and climate change has really changed the dynamics."
This is the new normality in a state crisscrossed with power lines. We can not prevent electrical equipment and high winds from disagreeing, but PG & E can improve in proactive cuts to silence these quarrels. There is also a precedent here. Since 2013, the San Diego Gas & Electric Company has made 13 public safety stops and claims not to have had a major fire. An internal weather team monitors 177 weather stations for temperature, humidity and wind speed to guess the threat of fire.
But again, it's not as simple as pulling the plug. "One thing that people can not understand is that if you turn off the power during an extreme weather event, even after the wind has faded, you can not just turn it back on immediately," he says. Helen Gao, spokesperson for San Diego Gas & Electric Company. "We have people patrolling the lines to make sure they do not suffer any damage." If they find something to repair, the power stays cut off.
So why not just bury the power lines instead of letting them hang throughout the dried up California? "Underground power lines are not a quick fix to solve all these problems," says PG & E's Smith. "When power lines are underground, it's harder to pinpoint the source of a power outage. It takes longer to repair. "In addition to that, much of California's landscape is made up of rock, which is expensive to drill.
A potential solution to this infrastructural madness, however, is getting ready in the redwoods of northern California. The Blue Lake Rancheria, hotel and casino, has developed its own solar micro-arraywhich allows it to disconnect from the network and run indefinitely with Tesla battery and backup generators. If PG & E plans to reduce the current during forest fires, its liability could be reduced if a community could isolate itself in this way. Indeed, PG & E contributed to the development of the Rancheria microgrid. As the California energy system continues to move away from fossil fuels, utilities such as PG & E may well reinvent themselves as energy. distributors, instead of producers.
Yet, technology is not a panacea for dealing with California's forest fire problem. Even if we got rid of the power lines, there will always be chuckles that will throw firecrackers in the summer. Accidents happen, like the one that triggered the biggest forest fire in California, which involved hammer a stake in an underground wasp nest. As long as people are in California, people will set it on fire.
PG & E needs to improve their safety and can not get away with that. But the big solution is a political will and a social effort. Federal and state land managers need to do more about the brush: California has done it 55,000 acres of prescribed burns, while the southeastern United States has done 100 times more, even though it is only five times larger than California. And for the love of Pete, We must stop building in the forest fire zones. For the existing cities in Peru, we have to oblige the ownerseach owner– Constantly remove the scrub from their yards and leaves and pine needles from their roofs, terraces and gutters. Take it from Rancho Santa Fe, in Southern California, to the city that has gone to extreme lengthsincluding year-round inspections to virtually escape forest fires.
"Fire is a contagion phenomenon," says Pyne, of Arizona State University. "If you treat your house and your neighbor does not treat yours, you are at risk." This became quite clear with the camp fire of last autumn, when strong winds blew thousands of embers in front of the main fire at the approach of the city of Paradise. . These firebrands landed all over the place and set houses on fire, which then spread to nearby houses and structures. Because these punctual fires were marked throughout the city, firefighters simply could not cope with them. Ideally, you should have properties with a lot of defensible space so that residents can stand and extinguish their homes with a hose instead of evacuating.
Fire experts have known for decades how to prevent tragedies like campfires. It's just a question of willpower. "I consider these burns as an analogue of mass shooting," said Pyne. "At some point, you decide" OK, it's time to take this problem seriously. " If not, it's just … Oh, another school is having it. A workplace, a dozen people. "
"Oh," he adds, "another community has burned."