Letters to the Editor

PSE’s data reveals real outage culprit | Letters | May 14

Like many islanders, I want better reliability in our electrical system. Most residents feel that power outages happen too often and electrical reliability should be improved. Outages are not just inconvenient; they can be life-threatening to elderly and disabled residents, damaging to businesses, and disruptive to schools.

PSE’s solution is a new substation and transmission lines. I was skeptical of this “build it and your outages will be solved” approach, so I looked to PSE’s own data – made available to me five and a half months after my request – to research what caused most outages. What I found was surprising.

For background, two types of lines carry electrical power. Transmission lines bring 115,000 volts of power onto the island and to its three substations. Distribution lines carry 12,500 volts from substations to neighborhoods.

Customer minutes is the industry standard to measure reliability, and equals number of customers times the number of minutes customers are affected by a power outage. 

Here’s what I discovered after analyzing PSE’s data from 2004-2009:

1. There have been nine transmission failures on the island that the proposed transmission lines would have prevented, most of these in 2004. The last power failure in Winslow that would have been prevented by the proposed transmission lines was in August 2004. According to PSE’s data, the proposed lines would not have prevented a power failure in the downtown business core in the last six years. The last transmission line power failure on the island occurred on the south end June 2007.

2. All island power failures from the 2006, 2007 and 2008 storms were caused by downed distribution lines and would have occurred even with PSE’s proposed transmission lines.

Three major December storms that hammered the island took place in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Outages were due to trees falling on distribution lines; no transmission failures occurred during these storms.

3. Distribution line failures account for 17 of the top 20 Bainbridge power outages (2004-2009, sorted by customer minutes). PSE makes it sound like transmission line failures are the real power failures because they affect so many customers, but a transmission failure isn’t even in the top 10, according PSE information. This clearly points to distribution line failures as the real culprit for reliability.

4. Ninty-nine percent of all power failures on Bainbridge during the last six years were from distribution lines, primarily from trees falling on the lines. They account for 43,543,150 lost customer minutes.

These facts prove the obvious. Instead of spending as much as $5 million for high-voltage lines that will do very little to solve electrical reliability, how about more intelligent, targeted tree trimming or burying distribution lines in areas prone to downed trees? How about creative options like bringing natural gas to the island or developing alternative energy resources?

Please visit PSE’s Web site today and endorse Option 1, which adds extra capacity if needed at one of the existing substations, and doesn’t build transmission lines.

It can be found at http://www.pse.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/neighborhoodFactSheets/Bainbridge%20comment%20card_web5.pdf.

Voice your opinion to the City Council; it approves permits and right-of-way. And, share these revealing facts with friends and neighbors.

Robert Gex

RAiSE member

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