lifornia Governor Edmund Brown, Jr., recently declared a state of emergency for the City and County of San Francisco. The City and County of San Francisco and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission had previously declared their own states of emergency and requested that Governor Brown do the same. The reason: wildfires threatening critical electric infrastructure that provides service to San Francisco. (These are the same wildfires threatening Yosemite National Park). Transmission lines and two of the three hydropower facilities serving San Francisco have been shut down as a result of the wildfires, which are threatening San Francisco’s electricity supply. As a result of the declaration, San Francisco is authorized to spend $600,000 to purchase electricity on the open market.
To date, the most widely publicized natural disaster threats to grid interruptions have been hurricanes (and superstorms), tornadoes and earthquakes. Now, add wildfires to that list.
One measure to defend critical infrastructure from an interruption of the electric grid is a microgrid. Microgrids protect against grid instability by being able to island electric usage in a defined area off from the grid using on-site generation and storage capabilities. The Southwest doesn’t have many earthquakes or hurricanes, but it does have wildfires. Given the recent history of wildfires in Arizona and Colorado, it is likely that the Southwest’s electric infrastructure, too, will be endangered by wildfires. Municipalities and users of critical infrastructure should look into microgrids as a mechanism to keep the power flowing in the face of a threat to the electric grid by a wildfire or another unforeseen grid interruption.