Huge parts of California were out of power on Wednesday after PG & E (recently bankrupt), whose fake power lines caused last year's campfire, preemptively shut down hundreds of thousands of customers. The unprecedented step of reducing the risk of forest fires has plunged over 500,000 homes in 20 counties (and across North and Central California) into darkness just after midnight. It is planned to reduce the power supply to over 250,000 more. In total, it is estimated that more than two million people could live without electricity (a "customer" in PG & E-Speak may be an apartment complex or another multi-unit building). Although the extent of the power outage is extensive and covers the Bay Area, parts of the region are clearly overlooked on failure cards: the powerhouses for just about every major technology giant
That's no coincidence, says Michael Wara, head of the Climate and Energy Policy Program Woods Institute of Stanford University. If anything, it is intended. He is one of the state forest fire commissioners tasked with investigating problems associated with utility infrastructure fires, such as those caused by PG & E in 201
"What PG & E is doing is obscuring the kind of low-voltage cables that power households," says Wara. "But typically large commercial customers, such as a technology headquarters, are closer to the mass transmission system [and] of the power lines, which are much less affected by this failure."
The types of power lines traditionally dangling in residential areas and neighborhoods would be more likely to be classified as forest fire due to their proximity to the ground and the increased likelihood of being surrounded by trees and other forms of vegetation. Bulky high-voltage transmission lines intended to supply large industrial users and local distributors with large amounts of energy are not susceptible in the same way. Wara says they tend to be built to higher standards, making them less susceptible to wind damage.
"The lines in South Bay where Tech Headquarters are located, such as Mountain View and Santa Clara County, are wide open [surrounded by] – there is basically no vegetation. It's flat, "Wara explained. "The mountains between Silicon Valley and the ocean [however,] are covered with forests, with extremely high risk and with very valuable real estate." Hence the power failure.