I am currently living in a zone with regular multi-day power outages in California. I have already experienced three multi-day power outages in the last month and will likely have another one later this week. Any time there are winds with gusts over 30-45 mph in the napa area and into the east bay of the San Francisco bay area then PG&E will cut power because their equipment is dangerous.
I have determined that the best option for me is to get a Honda EU2200 generator. One gallon of gasoline can operate it at about 400-watt power for 8 hours. This is about $6-8 per day for fairly robust blackout back up operations.
This generator has powered a friend’s house that has two refrigerators, lights and laptops. They used an extension cord with surge protection to safely operate their laptops.
There are backup lithium batteries for camping or for UPS that can be used for powering sensitive electronics. The generator could recharge the larger battery to maintain operation of electronics without any surge worries.
Ice and dry ice could work but is not logistically practical and more of hassle. Also, dry ice would cost $25-50 per day. There is also not enough supplies of ice and dry ice at stores during such a wide power outage.
There are natural gas generators that can be installed to supply power for your entire house. They cost in the $2500 to $5000 range but also need professional installation.
The full house standby generator means that there is no worries about also powering air conditioning, heaters, washing machines and clothes washing. The cost would be about three times less than the gasoline generators.
Most batteries for solar power will run out of power under heavy load in about 8-20 hours. A larger battery in an electric vehicle could last 1-4 days and could be driven and recharged in areas without power outages. However, Tesla do not have the 120-volt inverters for Vehicles to Grid (V2G) power supplies. Using the Tesla in this way would currently void the battery warranty. The Nissan Leaf has V2G systems.
California Energy Utility and Forest Mismanagement
Here is a summary of the California Energy, Fire and Forest situation.
There are over 130 million dead trees lying around in California forests. Dead trees are easy fuel for big forest fires. Only about 1 million per year are removed. There are massive limitations around logging and cutting in California. Other states (Texas, Colorado, Florida, Wyoming) can have comparable amounts of forests but they have not allowed their forests to become such fire problems. British Columbia, Canada (BC) has a lot of forests and they have far better forest management. BC had some fire problems because of a disease, that killed a lot of trees, but if there are fire breaks, fuel breaks, intelligent logging and proper tree density then things are not so difficult to control.
There has been the claim that this California problem is because of global climate change. However, every other state, province and country with forests do not have the degree of grid causes power fires and mass blackout management.
There are well-known metrics from one hundred years of forest management around how many trees per acre is safe and how to make mile-wide fuel breaks. Controlled burns are needed to clear out the fuel breaks and they need to be maintained before fire season.
Even after $30 billion in fire damage in the prior two years, 80+ deaths and more fire damage this year and the multi-billion power outages, there is still strong opposition to “radical tree trimming”.
PG&E the Northern California utility has allowed its 106,681 circuit miles of electric distribution lines and 18,466 circuit miles of interconnected transmission lines to end up in a poorly maintained and dangerous condition. This is the same company that harmed the residents of Hinkley, California in the based upon reality Julia Roberts movie Erin Brockovich.
PG&E faces consequences for violating their probation from the 2010 San Bruno Gas Explosion. In January 2019, the nation’s largest utility filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because it faces at least $30 billion in potential damages from lawsuits over the catastrophic wildfires in California in 2017 and 2018 that killed scores of people and destroyed thousands of homes.
PG&E was convicted of five felony counts of pipeline safety violations that led to the 2010 San Bruno Gas Explosion and one felony count of obstruction of justice for lying to officials.
PG&E first filed for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy on April 6, 2001. The company said that this was due to their energy costs rising by more than $300 million a month without reimbursement. PG&E said they were around $9 billion in debt.
The Hinkley contamination occurred between 1952-1966, however, PG&E did not report the contamination to the local water board until years later. After examining their practices, PG&E reported it contaminated the water supply with chromium-6, which is one form of the metallic element chromium.
Nearly 650 people affected by the contamination sued PG&E with the legal aid of Erin Brockovich. The company settled for $333 million.
In 1994, PG&E was convicted of 739 counts of criminal negligence for failing to trim trees near its power lines. The untrimmed trees were said to be the main reason for the Trauner Fire.
PGE caused a fire in 2003. The fire caused a power outage to more than 100,000 customers throughout San Francisco on one of the busiest holiday shopping days.
In 1999, a fire burned nearly 12,000 acres of the Tahoe and Plumas National Forests over 11 days. The fire was blamed on PG&E’s poor vegetation management and inspection programs.
There were over 6 smaller incidents from 2004 to 2015.
PG&E systems are dangerous but fire management by mass blackout is an incredibly bad plan. PG&E likely caused the Kincade fire. They have likely caused dozens of other fires. A tennis club and three houses burned because of downed power pole.
By 7 a.m. Tuesday, the Kincade Fire has grown to 75,415 acres, Cal Fire said on Twitter. The fire was 15% contained. The Kincade has destroyed 124 structures, the agency said, 57 of which were residential homes. Twenty-three others were damaged, and more than 90,000 were at risk. Over 200,000 people were evacuated because of the risk that the fire could rapidly sweep through urban areas.
There needs to be micro-gridding to reduce the range of different blackouts. Power lines need to be buried in many areas. The electric systems need different kinds of phasors and inverters and other safety and control equipment.
San Diego’s utility had addressed their own fire issue starting in 2010 and they are 60% remediated. PG&E has had a significant and obvious fire, electrical and forest problem since 1994 and 1999.
SOURCES – ABC News, Wikipedia, Amazon Home Depot, Personal Research
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.