PG&E says it’s making improvements to reduce power shutoffs

It’s nearly harvest time at Apple Hill – and with triple digits in the forecast – growers in El Dorado County are concerned about potential power shutoffs by PG&E. But the utility told KCRA 3 it is ramping up its infrastructure to provide a more reliable source of power to the people.

a close up of a sign: PG&E employee

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PG&E employee

At Delfino Farms in Camino, wine barrels are stored in a 55-degree room, where keeping things cool is essential for business.

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“With the tanks, if they shut off, they keep all the wines cool,” said Christine Noonan, the general manager for Delfino Farms.

“And as we know, this week, it can get up to 100 degrees up here, so if that wine gets to a certain temperature it spoils,” Noonan said.

A power shutoff, she said, could result in “hundreds of thousands of dollars if you don’t have a generator.”

With high heat expected in the week ahead, growers in the Apple Hill region of El Dorado County are keeping a sharp eye on their crop with the beginning of harvest just days away.

“Right now it’s the middle of August,” said Chris Delfino, president of the Apple Hill Growers Association.

“We’re going to be picking in five days. And we’re going to be picking all the way in September, October and into November.”

That’s why Delfino spent $27,000 on a power generator to protect his apple crop in the event of another public safety power shutoff by PG&E.

“It happened multiple times last year,” Delfino told KCRA 3.

It is Delfino’s wine operation that is most vulnerable to a loss of electricity.

“Mother Nature waits for nobody,” Delfino said. “And we are picking apples and they got to be put in cold storage below 40 degrees. And (if) they take away my electricity, I’m losing money.”

PG&E has put money into its infrastructure to minimize disruptions this year – with the goal of making them smaller in size and shorter in duration.

The utility is adding switches and sectionalized devices to the grid to limit the size of outages. It is also developing micro-grids with temporary generators to help keep the lights on.

PG&E is also adding more field crews for a quicker response – both on the ground and in the air.

“We have nearly doubled the amount of helicopters that we have to do inspections,” said Jeff Smith, a spokesperson for PG&E. “We’ve gone from 35 helicopters to 65 helicopters.”

“We’ve added a couple of airplanes and these airplanes have infrared technology. And what that allows us to do is inspect those lines at night,” Smith said.

The goal is to cut restoration time in half – compared to last year – so that customers are back on the grid within 12 daylight hours once the severe weather has passed.

“I’m glad they are doing that but they need to do more,” Delfino told KCRA 3.

PG&E told KCRA 3 it is also upgrading its website so there are no issues this year, and also offering webinars for customers to learn more about infrastructure improvements.


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