Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Power! Maybe.

An article in today's San Diego Union Tribune asks if the San Diego power grid was in peril during the October wildfires, and the answer seems to be a resounding yes. What a potential nightmare. Can you imagine the possibility for chaos if people were trying to evacuate, and there was no power?

Because it is a geographic cul-de-sac, and because SDG&E has chosen to rely heavily on imported electricity, San Diego County typically imports about half the power it uses along two major lines.

With one of those lines disabled within hours of the fires' start, and with the other threatened by blazes, utility officials were forced to consider the possibility that San Diego could become an electrical “island” – and would need local management of the newly isolated grid.

But key players in the local power grid say they had never simulated or practiced managing SDG&E's territory as an “island.”

The local utility has previously characterized San Diego's vulnerability to transmission disruptions as so severe that it proposes to build another major power line, the controversial $1.5 billion Sunrise Powerlink, which would cross many of the areas that burned in the wildfires.

It's also been reported that many of the fires probably began as a spark from high power lines that were whipped by unusually strong winds. I can't help but think of this as another strike against the Sunrise Powerlink project which Sempra is proposing to bring additional power to the San Diego region. More high power lines in fire zones? That not only creates additional fire risk, but the fire risk exacerbates the risk to the power supply that Sempra claims to be concerned about.

The article sure doesn't make it sound like bringing more power from outside the county is the answer to our long term energy needs. It's not economical. It's not environmentally smart. It's not a good choice in a fire zone. It's yet another reason to appreciate the proposal by the San Diego Smart Energy Solutions Campaign which provides a plan for developing alternative and traditional energy sources within the county.


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