Fri11282014

News

Left in the dark, residents question power outages

As the season’s first major rainstorms swept through the area earlier this month, some Los Altos residents expressed frustration with interruptions in their residential power service.

“Neighbors had various experiences with flashes of electricity going on, then off over a few minutes,” wrote one resident of Fallen Leaf Lane of a power outage Feb. 9. “My house on Fallen Leaf was dark for at least 20 minutes before we gave up trying to finish cooking dinner in the dark and went out to a restaurant to eat instead.”

Recent outages prompted several local residents to contact the Town Crier to investigate why their power dimmed during the storm – and without notice on seemingly normal days.

Power supplier PG&E confirmed four unplanned service interruptions in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills Feb. 4-9. Although a squirrel coming in contact with power equipment in Los Altos Hills Feb. 5 affected only 10 customers, equipment failure Feb. 6 impacted 2,800 Los Altos customers over a five-hour period. Branches fell across a power line Feb. 9, causing the Fallen Leaf Lane resident and 1,068 other customers to lose power for approximately an hour.

No outages were scheduled for Los Altos the week of Feb. 2.

“This appears to be weather related,” said PG&E representative Monica Tell of the incident.

Tell said customers receive notice via mail from PG&E when power interruptions are scheduled, and the company strives to reduce the impact of unplanned outages.

Keeping the lights on

In addition to updating circuits, PG&E is acting to prevent outages by installing Smart Grid technology that reboots circuits without the need for utility workers, upgrading substation equipment and managing vegetation near power lines. As part of its regular maintenance, PG&E reports that it inspects every mile of electric line annually, trimming trees and bushes that may be too close to lines.

Although equipment failure and uncontrolled circumstances are significant catalysts for power supply disruption, home construction projects can be just as much a threat. Tell encouraged residents planning excavation projects to call 811 to schedule a free Underground Service Alert visit. A professional locator will visit the digging site to mark underground utilities underneath or near the footprint of the project.

Efforts to prevent outages are having an impact. Since 2006, PG&E customers experienced 27 percent fewer power interruptions. According to a company report, the average PG&E customer experienced 1.07 power interruptions, or 117 minutes, without electricity in 2013.

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