Chelan PUD has electrical protective devices throughout our system that purposefully de-energize the line in the event of an issue for safety. These systems also help to reduce the risk of fire ignition from power lines.
In 2021, as part of the wildfire mitigation program, we began implementing an operational change in some areas that have been identified as high fire risk to prevent our system from causing sparks during wildfire season.
We expanded these operational changes into other areas of our service territory in 2022 and may continue to do so as conditions change and we learn more. These changes are consistent with industry best practices and strive to balance electrical reliability and the safety of our workers, the public, and the communities we serve.
Under typical operations, whenever there’s a momentary issue on the line, for example a tree branch briefly touches the line, the power will blink as the system automatically tries to restore power. The majority of issues on electrical lines are momentary. These can be caused by birds, squirrels, tree branches, or lightening.
If the issue does not clear itself, for example the tree branch falls onto the line and stays there, it results in a sustained power outage. PUD operations staff will investigate the problem and determine a plan for safely restoring power.
Fire Season Operations:
In areas of our service territory that have been identified as high fire risk, we’re now operating under different protocols to reduce the risk of fire ignition when fire danger is very high. If there is a momentary issue on the line, instead of a blink, an issue on the line will result in a sustained power outage because it will not try to automatically restore as it would under typical operations. The power will stay off until operations staff can investigate what caused the issue and ensure there is a low risk of fire ignition before attempting to restore power.
We are seeing an increase in the number of animal-related outages this year. Under typical operations, animal-related outage would most often be momentary, and customers wouldn’t notice more than a blink. However, under these fire season operations, an animal-caused outage often results in a sustained outage. That means increased outage frequency and duration in areas where wildfire mitigation settings are present.
In 2022, the following areas are operating under fire ignition reduction settings:
- Lake Wenatchee
- Coles Corner
- Upper Chumstick Hwy. (Leavenworth)
- Colockum (Malaga)
- Antoine Creek and Howard Flats (Chelan)
- Upper Blewett Pass
What’s being done to reduce the likelihood of outages?
- Installing more animal guards, prioritizing areas we know have been impacted by increased animal caused outages.
- Installing more devices on overhead lines to help crews find problems faster.
- Relocating electrical equipment (switches) to decrease the number of customers impacted by the outage.
- Upgrading equipment on overhead lines, poles and inside the substations that will provide more setting options.
- Continuing to perform extensive vegetation management.
- Planning projects to convert overhead lines to underground where feasible, in areas identified as high fire risk. These projects are complex and expensive and will take time to complete. The first of these types of projects, a portion of River Road in Plain, is in the planning phase and we anticipate construction to begin in 2023.
What can you do?