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.

Dave McGimpsey