Saturday, October 12, 2019

Some thoughts on California power cuts

A lot of ink has been spilled about the California power cuts. First of all, it’s inconvenient, but not the Armageddon that some people want you to believe. That’s not to say there won’t be some real suffering, especially for those people with medical needs.

There are some things people should know. The first is that the shutdowns were announced a long time ago and there’s been plenty of time to prepare. Western states are a lot drier than eastern states, making for a much higher fire danger. That’s true in years without drought and dry years make it much worse. After being blamed for the death and destruction of last year’s fires, PG&E can’t afford more lawsuits. They are already in deep financial trouble.

LA is in serious danger from major fires. There are no natural fire breaks and no way to really stop a major burn. The only danger more serious to LA is earthquakes. If there is a major earthquake, fire is a major hazard at the same time.

Many fires have been caused by high tension power lines. Personally, it’s my opinion that the nation should be moving away from big interconnected grids. When power is generated near where it’s to be used, there’s no need for high tension wires. A lot of energy is lost in transport and alternative energy is now cheap and clean enough to do the job. Doesn’t that sound like a better idea than shutting down the power every fire season?

California doesn’t normally experience power outages of this scale. Where I live in Northern New England, power outages can be measured in weeks for some people. Winter weather takes its toll, but I’ve lost power on clear sunny days. Such is life out in the country. That’s a major reason why I was an early adopter of solar electricity. It just works.

California is going to have to figure something out. These problems aren’t going away. Remember, what happens in California has a habit of eventually affecting the rest of the country.



  1. There is certainly no excuse for coal and oil areas not having their own energy. yet the oil fields in my state all get their power from coal-fired plants elsewhere, and coal areas ship their coal to coal-fired plants in distant counties.

    1. Coal is on its way out, like it or not. Banks refuse to loan money on the projects so that's enough to kill coal power plants right there.

      We recently stopped a major power line project in NH. It would take power from Canada and ship it through NH to Conn.. and other points south of us. I say let them generate their own power. They can deal with windmills and solar panels in their backyard or freeze in the dark.

  2. Well, in defense of PG&E, when they're not allowed to cut brush and trees away and clear the transmission lines, and when they can't replace equipment because of permitting, then you'll end up with issues with the lines.

    Personally, I actually think the fires are more likely to have been caused by homeless encampments or illegal grows than from utility lines.

    As to California, well, again. LA could have installed large fire breaks years ago, and plans existed for years, for huge clearcut swaths of land, some covered in cement or other non-flammable cover, but the enviros shut that down.

    As to local power plants? In California? Build a powerplant of either fossil fuel or nuclear within sight, sound, or emotional range of a population? In California? One could dream. Actually, it makes sense to have most of Cali's power generation to the east of the fault lines, not to mention that Hoover Dam provides lots of power to the lower CA basin. So long-distance transmission lines. Which require maintenance and vegetation management, which require actual performance thereof? In CA? The land of Not-In-My-Backyard and Up-The-Environment!!!!?

    One wishes for local small scale nuke plants, with the ability to provide power to other areas bordering the plant's area, but, again, California.

    If it's a good idea and it works, California will kill it.

    So, well, cutting power because they can't maintain the right-of-way or the lines thereof, so everyone turns to generators, so they'll come out with a regulation against generators for air quality or some other reason. Yeah, good going, California.

    And... there are reports that though residential and some business areas are dark, other industrial areas serviced by the same lines are powered. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

    1. It is curious how the shut offs stop just short of the Tesla plant.

      Yes, it's a complex issue. I'm not against environmental regulation in general. After all, it's the only planet we've got. However, some regulations make matter worse. It makes more sense to have fire breaks and right of way up keep than all the toxic gases from fires.

  3. I heard a rumor that the reason for shut-off was to create fear pf longer term power outages due to fire hazard. California has a major geo-thermal power plant near L.A. and the state are pushing for alternative energies to be used by homeowners into geo-thermal, solar and wind energies. This will cost quite a bit of money, so it requires a major push.

    1. Interesting. There are a lot of rumors about the "real" reasons. My guess is that there are a number of reasons. Rarely is it every just one thing that's going on.