To contend with both the heatwave and a looming high wind event, both rolling blackouts and a PG&E “Public Safety Power Shutoff" (PSPS) might be called this week in order to lower the chances of wildfires popping up across the Bay Area.
Well, it looks like we could be in for another round of intentional blackouts next week — much like the historic rolling blackouts that left over 200,000 people temporality in the dark last month. The rotating outages we may experience next week would be declared by the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which oversees the larger power grid and balances energy demand with supply.
Forecasted Offshore Dry Wind Event Means PG&E Might Need to Proactively Turn Off Power for Safety in Portions of 17 Counties - Customers Who Might Be Affected by the Public Safety Power Shutoff Receiving 48-Hour Notifications Tonight https://t.co/AzXAqiY8VI pic.twitter.com/xjskFQQlqc— PG&E (@PGE4Me) September 6, 2020
These outages are usually considered, as we've all learned by now, when power supply demands surge amid high temperatures that create dry ground conditions.
According to the Mercury News, a PSPS is also possible this week to help prevent wildfire dangers. The warning is due to a possible offshore wind event exacerbating current wildfire conditions and ushering in opportunities for new ones to ignite; the windy happening — which could bring guests as fast as 45 mph to the Bay Area — is expected to linger from Monday night through Wednesday morning.
Should the conditions deem it necessary to pursue a PSPS, PG&E customers (with current contact information on file) will be notified by "phone, email, or text to alert them to the possibility of rotating outages," per the utility company's website.
“We only use PSPS as a last resort when the weather is so severe,” said Katie Allen, a PG&E spokesperson on Saturday, to the local news outlet.
The California Independent System Operator (ISO) also warned that people should be prepared for a potential power outage — either planned or unplanned during the heat wave. Most customer accounts affected by rotating blackouts, however, can expect their power to be restored within one or two hours once the high-risk conditions have waned.
We're also likely to see Red Flag Warnings this week as expected Monday through Wednesday temperatures are some 15 degrees above average. (Yes: climate change is real — and influencing California quicker than previous estimates.)
"The odds are that we will see Red Flag Warnings pop up soon with this heat. And unfortunately, it might be some time before we lose this fire weather criteria," said Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, to the Chronicle about the impending record-breaking temps and possible rotating blackouts.
The newspaper notes, as well, that these possible power outages are different from the recent rolling blackouts in August. Those, alas, were caused by an overtaxed electrical grid (from people trying to generate respite from that previous heat wave) which caused ISO to implement the power outages — a first in nearly two decades.
Currently, a “PSPS Watch” is set as a "designated potential" for Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the Bay Area, including Napa and Sonoma counties; a Flex Alert from ISO is already in place across California for Sunday through Monday and might potentially be extended further.
You can stay updated on the current status of the possible planned blackouts (as well as what to expect from them and how long they'll last), here.
Image: Amy Elting