Dark Days Ahead in the PGE Dark Age

A website Willyweather tracks wind levels from the NOAA data.

Moderate wind levels combined with Red Flag warnings have been enough for PGE to shutoff power to about 2 million people.

Red Flag Warnings are common and those warnings have not caused other electrical utilities to have major power shutdowns. Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Roseville Electric Utility and Alameda Electric provide power in the same area and they continue to provide power to customers.

PGE is trying to protect itself because they have $30 billion in liability from fires that they caused over the last two years from poorly maintained lines and not properly cutting back trees and plants from near their lines.

Winds are below 10 mph in most places with power outages, but power is still not restored.

PGE has a long history of incompetence. PGE was responsible for poisoning the town of Hinkley. This was made into the movie Erin Brockovich.

From 1952 to 1966, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) dumped about 370 million gallons of chromium-tainted wastewater into unlined wastewater spreading ponds around the town of Hinkley, California, located in the Mojave Desert (about 120 miles north-northeast of Los Angeles).

PG&E used chromium 6, or hexavalent chromium (a cheap and efficient rust suppressor), in its compressor station for natural-gas transmission pipelines. Hexavalent-chromium compounds are genotoxic carcinogens.

In 1993, legal clerk Erin Brockovich began an investigation into the health impacts of the contamination. A class-action lawsuit about the contamination was settled in 1996 for $333 million.

In 2018, the Camp Fire killed 85 people, left several firefighters injured and razed more than 150,000 acres in Northern California.

24 thoughts on “Dark Days Ahead in the PGE Dark Age”

  1. I believe that, for sure. I’ve wondered about wind power being so far removed from the places to which it provides power. I still see energy going the way of fusion instead of wind (though, perhaps solar will still play a part). But, no matter what type of energy, our grids will need an overhaul.

  2. These numbers are simply calculated by force (applied to pedals) multiplied by speed (of pedal).

    And if I take it easy I can cruise along at 75W or so.
    Based on my mass my BMR should be about 100 W, so clearly the numbers don’t include BMR.

    Are you confusing kilojoule with kilocalorie? The kc = 4.2 kJ so that would give the numbers you are thinking of.

  3. Then I’m off by an order of magnitude, although it doesn’t feel like I’m that far off. Is there any chance they are including your BMR in those calculations? It feels like most Americans shouldn’t be able to put out a constant 50W for more than an hour.

  4. Just to elucidate the technical jargon.
    Functional Threshold Power is defined as the power you can put out without drawing on any anaerobic energy. So it is supposed to be totally sustainable. You can put out that level of power for an hour and at the end of that hour you can just do another hour, and another, until you need to eat or sleep.
    It’s the threshold, because if you go above that level you start to draw on reserves that are NOT sustainable and so you get lactic acid buildup in your muscles and you can’t sustain it. But at FTP (or below) you can just keep going for hours and hours.

    And if your FTP is less than 20W then see a doctor immediately. Assuming you can even walk into the medical centre.

  5. You’ve got your numbers wrong there. 20W is nothing.

    Eg. Thursday I went for a bike ride that lasted 1 hour 3 minutes. I went for 26 km, climbed 352 m and averaged 164 watts over that hour.

    This was not strenuous. I am not a trained athlete. I am actually recovering from illness. I stopped at red lights. Slowed down for intersections. And in fact I had trouble with my gear selectors and couldn’t go as fast as I would like.

    I’ve previously managed to average over 215 W for an hour, and many, many normal people are getting into the 300 W range. Once again, I’m not talking about professional cyclists, just people who ride for a hobby.

  6. For perspective, the golden metric in cycling is FTP: functional threshold power. The most elite cyclists in the world can sustain ~400watts for an hour. A good amateur (male) cyclist can sustain 300watts for an hour. A typical, out of shape flub can sustain perhaps 120watts for an hour.

  7. An athletic human was able to deliver a steady output of about two-hundred watts to operate a pedal powered aircraft in the 1980 period of time. WWII pedal powered generators supplied sufficient energy to operate tube based shortwave radio equipment in remote locations. Twenty watts is nothing compared to the energy expenditure of steady walking.

  8. Companies can announce they build a power line, clear the chose path of trees, then say “whoopes, we dun goofed. We can’t actually build on that path. This is a better path”. Then clear that one.
    Rinse and repeat for what is, essentially, hidden forestry. This is what that rule seems (to an outsider) to want to prevent. Probably happened in the past….

  9. In case anyone actually thinks this is possible I dare you to try putting out 20 watts with your legs for an hour.

  10. It is time for California and the local land owners to get herds of Goats. They eat Brush and herding the Goats would provide employment to the unemployed. Goat Dung can be used as fuel.

  11. It doesn’t matter whether the energy is from a coal burner, nuclear plant, or solar and wind, once it’s in the power grid it still needs safe power lines to transfer it around.

    Arguably, renewable energy needs MORE safe power lines because solar and wind sites are often more remote from the population and industry centres.

  12. Here is a solution without superlatives. Instead of a Tesla, a resident of the dark age buys a self-contained [co]generator, and a tank of fuel (for the next 10 years) for it on the next price dip. To add an edge to the point, it can even be a coal-fired steam turbo genset.

    A 30kW gas turbo genset goes for about USD19k. In the next episode of dark age, it can pay itself off charging all the desperate Teslas around. 🙂

  13. The West coast has very poor weather prediction because prevailing wind direction is from the West to the East at our latitude. Everywhere else in the US, has the weather to the west of it to base predictions on. But the way air behaves over water and over land can be very different. In the west you just have how it was behaving over water, and there is much less information on temperatures and wind direction over the ocean, because not many weather balloons and such are released over the ocean.
    Also, not being able to predict one wind accurately often leads to not being able to predict other winds accurately as all this stuff interacts.
    The government did buy newer machine not that long ago, I would have hoped they could have done a bit better than this: https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/noaa-kicks-off-2018-with-massive-supercomputer-upgrade
    Like any computer though, garbage in, garbage out. What we need are more data points.

  14. I dunno, just smells like union padding only, not that different from longshoremen.

    But being unable to sell the wood seems dumb, and who doesn’t like helicopters (especially those helicopter saws!)

  15. I feel that. I’m into renewable energies and a non-fossil fuel future (though I’m still for fusion), but what I’m not into is idiocy. Not properly clearing brush, not insulating lines, etc, seems insane. Sometimes you just have to do it. It’s not string theory equations (or rocket science). Be like Nike and Just Do It.

    Also, thank you for the explanation. ^_^

  16. Here’s a brilliant solution to a really stupid problem:
    How about the State of California and all the land owners in high fire regions be forced to maintain the land, keep the trees trimmed, and mow down the brush and foxtails?
    Then we could act on another intelligent notion:
    Have the fire departments resume doing “Controlled Burns” just like the natives have done for thousands of years…
    The final phase would be a huge economic boost for rural areas:
    Allow small logging contractors to go back into the forests and process all the fallen trees and do shelter wood logging in forested areas that become overly dense…
    Final phase:
    Start putting the main power grid lines underground and branch out from there until we have a wind and lighting proof power network. Now there! Was that so hard?
    What was that? Oh right – the environmentalists are worried about the beetles…

  17. Bit of a hit job on PG&E. The state of California forbids: cleared logging firebreaks, sale of logs from trees cut along power line right of ways, use of non-union, temporary or contract labor to clear right of ways during the short periods it is possible, use of helicopters to remove trees in inaccessible areas, insulation and hardening of risk prone lines unless the money to do so is taken from executive salaries or dividends (PG&E hasn’t paid dividends in years), removal of trees greater than 24 inches in diameter (was 18 inches). Kafka has NOTHING on the green anti-business leftists running CA.

  18. Okay, so I don’t get this. Maybe I’m wrong, but this outage reeks of ***k-uppery. I fail to see the reason why upwards of 2 million people need to go without power. This seems unprecedented. Am I wrong? Is there precedent? Because, if not, the top hats at PG&E must be stuck in some magical Dungeons and Dragons quest where their actions have no consequences. Or, better, Vampire the Masquerade. … <_< Wow that last part was SO relevant… anyway, is there a real fire danger right now because of the Santa Ana winds, or what?

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