Home Contra Costa County PG&E Expands Pole Washing Program to Benefit East Bay Communities

PG&E Expands Pole Washing Program to Benefit East Bay Communities

by ECT

RICHMOND, Calif.— In an effort to reduce the number of outages caused when light rain, mist or fog comes in contact with dust, dirt or salt on power lines, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has expanded its pole-washing program in parts of the East Bay.

Pole washing consists of spraying equipment with water to wash away contaminants from electric lines and equipment, typically in late summer and into the fall, to prevent pole fires and outages.

During a dry season, and especially amid the current drought affecting California, dust, dirt, salt and other substances accumulate on power lines. When light rain or mist arrives after a long dry spell, it can turn this mixture into mud, which conducts electricity. This can damage electrical equipment, potentially resulting in pole fires and outages. This fall, portions of the Bay Area, including East Bay cities like Richmond, experienced widespread outages due to this phenomenon.

PG&E has a pole-washing program to reduce the potential for these outages. Using a sprayer and water tanker, PG&E employees proactively spray debris off its poles, cleaning the equipment and often preventing such outages. Pole washing is usually focused on electric transmission equipment to avoid larger and more widespread outages from occurring. That means these outages usually impact the distribution system serving local neighborhoods.

PG&E is expanding its pole-washing program, and has been washing thousands of poles through the fall in parts of the East Bay, including Richmond and El Cerrito. Crews will specifically target distribution equipment during this expansion to lessen the impact on neighborhoods.

So far, crews have washed more than 2,000 distribution poles in the East Bay, which includes washing the lines and equipment – such as insulators – on top of the poles. Should there be a significant rainstorm, nature could complete the job by naturally washing the equipment. The bone-dry conditions, as well as ash and particles from wildfires, have contributed to the increase of such outages this year.

“Multiple poles can be impacted within a few hours of the light rain or mist. The sheer volume of repair work, all within a short period of time, is a challenge we face with these weather events,” said Amber Bennett, PG&E electric superintendent. “In addition, each job can be significant. Replacing a pole, for example, can take 10-20 hours depending on the type of pole that needs to be replaced. When you have multiple poles impacted, it’s all-hands-on-deck to get our customers restored. We’re expanding our pole washing program to avoid these outages and incidents.”

When these kinds of weather-related outages occur, PG&E works to restore power to as many customers as possible, using techniques like switching customers from one line to another. In some cases, the volume of issues can lead to extended outages. However, PG&E’s meteorology team tracks weather patterns so crews are ready in advance. Crews work around the clock to make repairs, safely and as quickly as possible, until every customer is turned back on. PG&E also brings in crews from lesser hit areas, when necessary.

The most common damage from these kinds of weather issues come from crossarms or poles being burned and requiring replacement. PG&E is proactively patrolling and replacing damaged equipment as part of the expanded pole washing program.

Customers are reminded to treat all low-hanging and downed power lines as if they are energized and extremely dangerous. Keep yourself and others away from them. Be aware of trees, pools of water and other objects that may be in contact with power lines. If you see damaged power lines and electric equipment, call 911, and then notify PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.

About PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and http://www.pge.com/about/newsroom/.

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Jaimoe Oct 20, 2021 - 5:25 pm

My grandpa just said, ” I got a pole you can wash, Mrs.Newson.”

Robert C. Oct 21, 2021 - 1:18 pm

I’ve lived in a lot of places in the U.S. and overseas, including arid dusty New Mexico and Texas, and I’ve never seen this problem in any other location or with any other public utility. That the other night’s light rain could result in a dozen blown pole-mounted transformers just in the Bay Area is incredible. Maybe it’s not our dust that’s unique, but our sad-sack public utility.

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