SMUD prepared for winter storms
As summer ends SMUD continues to prepare for the winter storm season. SMUD works year-round to harden the grid and enhance the reliability of its electrical system. Reliability and public safety are Core Values of community-owned SMUD, so preventative work that focuses on managing tree growth, replacing older power poles and installing and replacing miles of underground cable all go a long way in keeping the lights on when the weather gets rough. Doing the work now also precludes needing to do it later during the winter storm season when it’s wet and windy.
SMUD’s electrical grid serves about one and a half million people. The system is about 40 percent overhead (wires and transformers atop power poles) and about 60 percent underground (buried cable and pad-mounted transformer boxes). SMUD oversees the maintenance of more than 200,000 trees in its 900-square-mile service area.
For electric utilities like SMUD, trees are a common cause of power outages, whether they are inappropriately planted near power lines or growing into direct contact with electrical equipment. Palm trees particularly pose problems as their fronds—the fanlike leafy parts—break off and sail aloft in high winds. Any power outage is a potential safety risk to the community and to the workers who must restore it.
Routine tree trimming and vegetation maintenance reduces outages and enhances reliability. This year, SMUD is trimming more than 80,000 trees in its regular schedule to clear vegetation away from power lines, poles, transformers, substations, and other various SMUD facilities.
SMUD also uses digital technology to identify trees and other vegetative growth that pose a threat to public safety and power system reliability. It can strategically pin-point trees through sophisticated data analysis. Trees that are within defined clearance limits of SMUD’s electrical equipment are identified for further evaluation and remediation, including pruning or removal.
SMUD is also busy maintaining the grid’s infrastructure—poles and wires. SMUD will or has already replaced about 1,000 poles in 2018 and will replace another thousand next year. SMUD is also replacing about 370,000 feet—or more than 70 miles—of underground cable in 2018 and will do so at that rate each year over the next several years—roughly the distance from Sacramento County to Lake Tahoe. Underground power cables that were manufactured decades ago tend to have higher failure rates. SMUD is replacing it with much better cable that has benefited from more rigorous testing and better manufacturing techniques.
Most SMUD customers benefit from their electrical grid being redundant, which means most of the customers affected by an outage can be rerouted to other power circuits while the underground cable or damaged power pole, transformer, or other electrical equipment is fixed or replaced. Most outages last less than an hour as a result. Some customers could experience longer outages because there are no redundant power lines in their area, or the damaged equipment affects them directly.
The community also benefits from the smart meters that were installed at the beginning of the decade. SMUD’s smart grid has become more robust every year since and can now expediently identify outages, which means quicker restoration. Sometimes power can be restored remotely or even automatically without having to roll a troubleshooter and a truck.
No one likes being without power, even for a short time. SMUD is here to help. If power is out, please report it at the SMUD.org Outage Portal page, or call 1-888-456-SMUD. SMUD has optimized its outage map and outage reporting options for mobile phones, even launching a smartphone app. For more information about SMUD and its energy-saving programs and services, visit SMUD.org.
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A print-quality file of the image below, as well as others, is available on request.
Suggested caption: A SMUD line crew replaces a power pole during a storm last winter. While some damage to electrical equipment is unavoidable during a strong winter storm, SMUD works year-round to maintain its equipment, so it can withstand heavy rain and high winds.