High-pow­ered out­rage

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - N my cor­ner Paul Thorn­ton,

Iof South­ern Cal­i­for­nia last week­end, when the June gloom that had been keep­ing us cool re­treated and record-break­ing tem­per­a­tures ar­rived, there were no power out­ages. Past heat waves (even brief ones) tended to bring black­outs the mo­ment elec­tric­ity de­mand surged, so I thought that per­haps our util­ity had fi­nally dis­cov­ered a way to keep our HVAC sys­tems hum­ming when they’re ac­tu­ally needed.

Turns out my neigh­bor­hood was an is­land of air-con­di­tioned com­fort amid a sea of heat-stricken, power-de­prived mis­ery, as thou­sands of un­lucky De­part­ment of Water and Power ratepay­ers suf­fered a 48-hour out­age. Some of our let­ter writ­ers, for whom the DWP is a punch­ing bag in the best of times, un­leashed their anger at the util­ity in re­sponse; oth­ers con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity that so­lar may play a role in mit­i­gat­ing fu­ture out­ages.

Michael H. Miller of Los An­ge­les won­dered where the mayor was:

Power out­ages have be­come a fact of life in Los An­ge­les. Last sum­mer, many of us in the Los Feliz area were with­out elec­tric­ity off and on for days. Yes, it was a heat wave, but it wasn’t a hur­ri­cane or some let­ters ed­i­tor

other dis­as­ter.

Many found out that there is no out­age hot­line — that to call in “no power,” you have to deal with billing ques­tions and other ob­sta­cles.

Are these out­ages go­ing to re­main in our fu­ture? What is be­ing done?

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s ab­sence from Los An­ge­les dur­ing the re­cent out­age was sym­bolic: Where is he on ev­ery ma­jor is­sue, in­clud­ing home­less­ness, street con­di­tions, traf­fic and, yes, the DWP? Con­cern­ing the lat­ter, he and DWP had bet­ter do some­thing soon.

Thomas Reynolds of Los An­ge­les de­cries util­i­ties’ over­con­fi­dence:

The power failed the evening of Fri­day, July 6, at our house. The next morn­ing I looked at my copy of the L.A. Times, anx­ious to find out what was go­ing on. The front page of the Busi­ness sec­tion had an ar­ti­cle on how well pre­pared the Cal­i­for­nia In­de­pen­dent Sys­tem Op­er­a­tor was for the heat wave and that no Flex Alerts had been is­sued.

What? Mean­while, parts of L.A. en­dured their long­est out­age in years. Now, util­i­ties con­grat­u­late them­selves in ad­vance. Or­ange res­i­dent Bert Bigelow ex­plains a short­com­ing of so­lar:

In your July 12 edi­to­rial on the black­outs, one of the sug­gested solutions was for peo­ple to in­stall so­lar pan­els “so they could pro­vide their own power,” thus tak­ing pres­sure off the grid.

While so­lar pan­els re­duce the load on the grid dur­ing sunny hours, they can­not pro­vide power dur­ing out­ages.

Most pan­els are con­nected to the grid through in­vert­ers. If the grid goes down, the in­verter shuts down too, so no power is avail­able from the so­lar panel. To pro­vide in­de­pen­dent power, a so­lar sys­tem would have to be dis­con­nected from the grid, ei­ther per­ma­nently or au­to­mat­i­cally dur­ing out­ages.

Ei­ther way, stor­age bat­ter­ies and switch­ing would be re­quired, adding com­plex­ity and con­sid­er­able cost to the sys­tem.

Justin Sul­li­van Getty Im­ages

BE­FORE THE out­ages in L.A., state grid man­agers said power sup­plies were ad­e­quate for the heat wave.

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