Wind, fire, power Rural Ramblings
In California, major electricity and gas supplier PG&E is being sued under state law for negligence as the 2018 wildfire conditions worsened. Some of that I’ve read is because of sparks from downed power lines because the power wasn’t turned off and also for not clearing trees and vegetation near power lines.
Right in the run up to Christmas a powerful storm howled out of the Pacific bringing chaos to the south coast of BC from Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley. B.C. Hydro took days to restore power as downed trees brought down lines.
The storm was unusual in its ferocity with over 100 MPH winds. Where I used to live in the Outer Hebrides such storms , in season, are almost weekly. However, trees are few and far between. I’ve read the pesky Vikings were responsible for clearing the scrub oak forest hundreds of years ago. It’s very difficult now to grow a tree to any size because of the wind.
I digress. Back to the point. The exceptional wildfires and storms are, governments will say, rare events. I disagree. Rare events are becoming more common and we must assume a worse case scenario. In 2018, a little over 13,500 square kilometres of B.C. were ravaged by wildfires, there were more fires than on any other year on record. I don’t think it’s going to get any better and Alberta needs to take note. We got off light.
First of all, it’s a no brainer not to turn off power and gas supplies during a wildfire. Rocket science it is not. As for trees bringing down power lines. Let’s look at that. First of all, vegetation and trees should be cleared well away from power lines. I know utilities do clear areas but just looking out my window I can see trees that would likely bring down power lines.
The solution should be government mandated. In the end, I think money will be saved. Two things. One, bury power lines. Simple, expensive to begin with but you only have to do it once. Start with cities and towns before considering major highway and road routes. Second, clear the trees and vegetation to a safe distance from power lines in rural areas and keep doing it. Again, I would argue that prevention will eventually pay dividends.
Much as I would like it, it’s not going to be viable to bury all power lines in rural areas. Maybe government subsidies for solar panels for rural properties with the option of going off grid during an outage? Maybe some properties could be self sufficient and not need power lines at all? At the risk of irritating the utility companies maybe all properties could be fitted with solar panels? Just a thought.