Monday, June 18 , 2018, 9:42 pm | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

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Southern California Edison Installing 41 Backup Generators in Santa Barbara, Goleta Areas

Electricity provider places generators along South Coast in preparation for winter storms and possible power outages

Southern California Edison is installing 41 semi-trailer-sized backup generators in Santa Barbara County substations ahead of a possible stronger than normal winter rainy season. The Edison substation at the end of Glen Annie Road will have 24 operational by year’s end.
Southern California Edison is installing 41 semi-trailer-sized backup generators in Santa Barbara County substations ahead of a possible stronger than normal winter rainy season. The Edison substation at the end of Glen Annie Road will have 24 operational by year’s end. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Before we ring in 2016, Southern California Edison will have installed 41 portable generators around Santa Barbara County, where they will remain throughout the winter storm season.

After that, the backup electricity providers — each the size of a semi-trailer and placed as far from homes and other sensitive places as possible for safety reasons — will be towed away, according to Bill Chiu, Edison’s director of engineering.

The pre-staging ahead of a stronger-than-normal El Niño weather forecast has never happened locally. But the response is an added Edison measure for the South Coast, which has fewer transmission lines than the rest of the service area and is geographically vulnerable because of its relative isolation.

Twenty-four of the 41 temporary emergency power providers are going into the Goleta substation on Glen Annie Road, which alone could generate 48 megawatts, said Jim Carbone, an Edison site representative.

Most other generators will go into Gaviota and Isla Vista substations, Edison spokeswoman Rondi Guthrie said.

Edison has been working with many local and state agencies to implement its generator deployment plan, but how the company chose its substations was less clear.

For security reasons, Chiu said, Edison doesn’t discuss specific levels of grid vulnerability with the public.

“A number of factors drove the locations where generators are being deployed, such as impacts to surrounding communities, available space within our substations that can accommodate the generators, electric grid operational benefits and deployment practicality,” he said.

“Rest assured that SCE routinely assesses any potential grid vulnerability from operational constraints and factors such as severe weather conditions.”

The South Coast is geographically vulnerable to power outages so Edison is installing backup generators for predicted El Niño storms this winter. Click to view larger
The South Coast is geographically vulnerable to power outages so Edison is installing backup generators for predicted El Niño storms this winter. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

A number of situations could warrant activating generators, Chiu said, but the intention is to only use them during an emergency to ensure that if Santa Barbara has a major outage, most customer power would be restored within 24 hours.

Edison wouldn’t comment on which of its customers have their own backup generators, but conceded it’s likely that most hospitals and other public institutions do.

If that’s the case, and there is a large outage, Chiu said those customers could be called upon to voluntarily turn on generators.

“SCE will be reaching out to any of its customers that are known to possess their own generators in the coming weeks,” he said.

“As a general practice to protect the privacy of our customers, SCE does not divulge any known customer information.”

Chiu said Edison customers should expect to see an increased presence at area substations during the upcoming El Niño season.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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