Categories
Weather

California’s wildfire blackouts are a mess. Here are 3 key solutions. – Vox

This is a very good post about the current mess here in California where PG&E shut off power for 800,000 people to cover its ass and avoid starting another fire. It sounds as if my local utility, SDG&E, actually got its shit together after starting a fire in 2007 and being forced to actually pay for it:

n 2007, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) was blamed for wildfires in San Diego County; investigators found it hadn’t done proper vegetation management. It ultimately paid $2.4 billion to settle lawsuits related to those fires. It wanted to pass on remaining costs, some $379 million, to ratepayers in the form of higher rates, but the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) wouldn’t let it. The case was appealed all the way up to the California Supreme Court, which found against SDG&E. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court announced that it would not take the case, leaving SDG&E to eat the costs. (This ruling is relevant to how PG&E’s liability will ultimately be divided up.)

Vox

Since 2007, the scare of those lawsuits has prompted SDG&E to spend $1.5 billion upgrading its fire detection and response capabilities. And in its recently announced wildfire mitigation plan, it proposes spending $3 million more on such measures as aggressive grid hardening and vegetation management, improved meteorology with more weather stations, more remote, high-definition cameras for fire-detection, a multi-level community outreach and education program, and a series of community resource centers where people can go when power is shut off to receive information and basic needs.

Vox

The other state trend driving this is housing prices – for years, ‘drive till you qualify‘ was received wisdom for years. The result, combined with the desire for a yard, was sprawl. Sprawl + climate change = burning homes.

Anyway, the Vox piece does an excellent job of laying out the utility and fire side of the story – have a read.

Categories
Random

Power and energy consumption

I built a system that uses a ‘Raven’ Zigbee USB radio and Raspberry Pi to monitor our SDG&E electric meter, and layered Flask and D3.js on top to display usage.

Sometimes it looks quite cool:

Screenshot 2018-07-18 07.21.01.png

The baseline for the house is 225 to 250W, and the plateaus are the (high efficiency energy star) refrigerator. You can see where I got up, turned on lights and cooked breakfast, too. (Electric range and kettle.)

I’m pretty pleased with our usage and have put quite a bit of effort into reducing our consumption. LED bulbs, of course, but also low power servers and networking (61 watts total!), timer switches on idling electronics and measuring what things use. In-wall insulation is also a huge win year-round.

The code is at this GitHub repo if you want to roll your own.

It’s a weekend or two, but if you’re willing to puzzle it out, the data is nice and it’s purely local – no internet connection needed, no holes in your firewall, no sharing of the data. A few minutes reading should be convincing on why that’s worthwhile.