Most people don’t think about fire danger, or preparing for fire season, until summertime temperatures arrive. Fortunately, an entire division of professionals at Pacific Power, a division of PacifiCorp, are focusing on wildfire prevention.
Staff Writer | Communities for Healthy Forests | July 29th, 2022
Wildfire mitigation is one of the main reasons PacifiCorp has invested millions of dollars over the past several years in technology upgrades and infrastructure investments, according to PacifiCorp Vice President of Operations Allen Berreth.
“Over the last several years, PacifiCorp has put a lot of effort and thought into wildfire mitigation across our six-state territory. Specifically identifying the areas of higher risk and impact and consequence.”
Prevention is one of the biggest priorities, according to Curt Mansfield, Senior Vice President of Power and Delivery. “We’re making very prudent investments to prevent wildfire risks, improve the resiliency of our network, and improve reliability.”
Improving the resiliency of the system – typically referred to as grid hardening – allows PacifiCorp to safely deliver power through the threats that come every day from weather events that move across the network. Improvements like adding technology, rebuilding lines, replacing poles, and replacing wire.
PacifiCorp Engineering Project Manager Dave Shober says when it comes to technology improvements, PacifiCorp engineers are adding intelligent devices in the field to provide better situational awareness, real-time control, and information to allow for faster reactions to threats like wildfire and large storm systems.
How fast? According to Shober, “Managers can actually open and close switches in high-risk locations remotely instead of having to wait until someone can get out to the field to those locations.”
Quick reaction times and a sturdier system are only a fraction of how PacifiCorp is working to be proactive when it comes to the threat of wildfire.
Weather is the number one impact on the reliability of the system, giving rise to a massive investment in weather forecasting.
PacifiCorp has deployed several hundred weather stations across its service territory. Those stations provide real-time weather information, while also allowing managers to stay a step ahead of the danger.
PacifiCorp’s Meteorology Manager Steve Vanderburg oversees several in-house meteorologists, who use high-resolution forecast models to create hourly 30-year data sets of historical weather conditions.
“We are combing all of this with wildfire modeling software that allows us to simulate millions of wildfires every day so that we can map out the risk and consequence of wildfires based on current forecast conditions, according to Vanderburg. “So all of this information allows us to better understand what’s coming and where we need to focus to take action to stay ahead of those wildfire risks.”
The benefit to PacifiCorp’s investments in wildfire mitigation live on beyond just the reduction of wildfire risk. Berreth says, “These are investments that help the system be more resilient through the long term. Through the winter storms, through the summer wind events, these investments provide value to the customer for years to come.”
To learn more about PacifiCorp’s wildfire safety efforts, visit www.pacificpower.net/wildfiresafety.