WILDFIRES = Annual Devastation... Financial Burden... Public Safety Threat
Apr 16, 2021
Grid Asset Failures & Non-Grid Wildfire Catalysts are REAL
Utility operators, political leaders, government officials, first responders, and the public at-large can ALL agree -- perennial wildfires are a serious threat. The risk of community devastation is real.
But, what if we could leverage our existing grid assets to create a vital fire mitigation solution.
Understandably, many are concluding that our grids are a substantial cause of the ongoing wildfire problem. However, perhaps a “game-changing” solution is actually provided to us by the grid itself.
Via innovative technology advancements, cost-effective fire mitigation solutions are now emerging. Soon, our transformers will be swiftly retrofitted with sensors to accelerate our fire mitigation progress, reduce disaster occurrences, decrease event severity, lessen liability risk, and expedite necessary public safety protections.
Imagine An “Always-On” Sensor-Based Fire Mitigation Solution
Using our existing overhead transformer fleets, utility operators can now create a community-wide public safety protection solution. Outdoor smoke, fire/wildfire, humidity, ambient temperature and other related conditions can now be detected, and reported to the authorities. Automated Alerting capability following fire/wildfire detection is now available to drive accelerated response by utility operators and authorities.
Time is of the essence when it comes to fire/wildfire mitigation, and saving lives. By deploying an “Always-On” fire/wildfire sensor network throughout our distribution grids, essential fire mitigation benefits will be realized. Leveraging overhead transformers presents a novel, cost-effective opportunity.
This innovative sensor technology application will simultaneously save lives, avoid disasters, decrease the impact of unpreventable public safety events, protect the financial interests of jurisdictions, and reduce liability risk for operators, their shareholders and their insurers. ALL stakeholders will benefit.
What is the value of a ubiquitous, fast-to-install, overhead, outdoor sensor canopy? It will serve multiple cost-saving and life-saving purposes; addressing a series of critical needs for all stakeholders.
- Early Detection of Fires
- Automated Alerts
- Prevention Capabilities
- Situational Awareness
- Downed Conductors Detection
- Outage Notifications
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction
- Decreased Environmental Damage
- Reduced Liability Risk
- First Responder Safety Protection
- Reduced Fire Suppression Costs
- Increased Public Safety Protection
By using specifically designed sensors, utility operators, first responders, local authorities and government agencies can administer a proactive, comprehensive fire mitigation solution. When comparing the proven loss capability of just ONE Wildfire, the investment to establish an “Always-On” outdoor community-wide fire mitigation and public safety solution is well justified.
The November 8, 2018 Camp Fire -- which occurred in Paradise, California - resulted in unprecedented aftermath. Among the staggering statistics, and an estimated sensor solution overview are the following:
ONE Wildfire Event - Camp Fire, Nov 2018
- Total Costs & Damages = $16.65+ Billion
- Fatalities = 85
- Suppression Costs = $150+ Million
- Liability Costs = $13.5 Billion
- Total Buildings Destroyed = 18,804
- Residences Destroyed = 14,000 (est)
- Acres Burned = 153,336
- Firefighters At Risk = 5,596+
- GHG Emissions = 3.9+ Million Metric Tons
- Utility Pleads to Manslaughter = 84 counts
- Financial Result = Utility Bankruptcy Filing
GRIDWIDE FIRE-SPY - Estimated for PG&E Service Area
- Investment/Customer/Month = < $4.00
- Sensors Required = 409,000
- Full Deployment = ~2 years
- Monitoring Value = (24X7) X (365) X (10yrs)
- Wildfire Prevention, and Early Detection & Automated Alerts, and Situational Awareness During Events
As the aforementioned example suggests, a full-scale deployment of “Always-On” outdoor overhead sensor networks might require less than $4 per month, per customer.
Some might initially consider this investment level to be ‘too expensive’. But, the important reality of this solution’s value is quickly recognized when we look at what the 2018 Camp Fire event actually cost utility customers, shareholders, local government, and the California state government.
Using the indicated Camp Fire aftermath costs of $16.65 Billion, divided by the estimated quantity of electric customers within the entire PG&E utility footprint, a staggering ‘cost’ result is revealed. The Camp Fire aftermath cost equates to an estimated $48.30 per every PG&E electric customer, per month, for a period of 10 years. In other words, without local and/or state government subsidy, and shareholder subsidy, the Camp Fire incident cost all PG&E electric customers $48.30 EACH, per month, for 120 months -- to simply cover the aftermath costs resulting from just ONE Wildfire incident.
This cost does not entirely factor in the unquantifiable value of more than 80 fatalities, substantial environmental devastation, local economy devastation, and massive amounts of harmful Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions; an estimated 3.9+ Million Metric Tons of GHG emissions spewed from the Camp Fire event. All California Wildfire events in 2020 released an estimated 112+ Million Metric Tons of GHG equating to about 1.6X the estimated annual GHG emissions of California’s entire 15+ Million autos.
While grid-asset failures have been recorded as a source of various catastrophic wildfires, we cannot overlook non-grid induced events. Lightning strikes, arson, etc have been attributed to devastating wildfires. We need a solution that helps to address all wildfire incidents - regardless of cause.
By leveraging the existing overhead distribution transformer asset fleets, we can now convert our grids into vital sensor canopies. By cost-effectively networking specifically designed sensors, utility operators can gain proactive insights into their failing grid assets. This important value leads to fire/wildfire Prevention. Simultaneously, utility operators, first responders and authorities can utilize these same “Always-On” sensor networks to Early Detect, Auto Alert, and deliver vital Situational Awareness data whenever grid induced, and/or non-grid induced wildfire events occur. Saving lives, and reducing costs.
ONE wildfire event has the capacity to deliver irreparable damage to communities; impacting state budgets, inflicting severe liability damage upon operators, damaging shareholder value, causing massive insurance loss, crippling local economies, substantially polluting our environment, and negatively offsetting our ongoing climate change initiatives.
The required investment to establish community-wide “Always-On”, potential life-saving, economy-saving, environment-saving sensor network canopies literally pales in comparison to the proven cost burden and devastating impacts that just ONE wildfire can deliver.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”; this adage is spot-on when it comes to the adoption and deployment of community-wide outdoor, overhead sensor networks. Prevention, Early Detection, Auto Alerts, and Situational Awareness are all PRICELESS advantages. Over $16.65 Billion in damages due to ONE Wildfire is overwhelming to any state or even federal government budget. Reducing the occurrence of, and size/scope of fires and wildfires MUST be a priority. Creating public safety defense solutions via outdoor overhead sensor networks is now achievable, is cost-effective, is fast-to-install, and can substantially enhance other types of fire mitigation efforts being undertaken by operators.
By addressing both grid and non-grid induced fire/wildfire concerns, the already-outstanding corporate citizenship demonstrated by our respected grid operators will be further elevated among the communities they proudly serve. Public safety can be further improved by undertaking this investment.