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Fire Protection Using Automated Systems

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Julian Jackson's picture
Staff Writer, Energy Central, BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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  • Apr 13, 2022

Wildfires are increasing all over the world. Last year the USA and Australia, among other countries, suffered severe fire damage. According to, the North American fire season has tripled since 1992 from 46 days to 154 days. Although fires started by electrical equipment are not a major contributor, they still can cause devastation during the vulnerable season. Unfortunately these wildfires can be started by grid equipment, for example as trees fall on lines and short them out. Utilities need methods to detect this and remedy it before a fire starts.

One method is automatic fire protection circuits. In California last year, a pilot project called Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS) was trialled by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and will be rolled out to all distribution powerlines later this year. By using sensors the system automatically shuts off the power in one-tenth of a second if a fire is detected. This is combined with other information, such as CCTV, weather reports, and drone examination of lines to detect overgrowth of vegetation or other potential hazards.

Further advances involve sending the data from sensor networks, CCTV or drones to AI systems for processing: advanced computing can detect issues that humans might miss, and flag up alerts so remedial action can be taken by utility staff.

There is of course a consumer downside to shutting off power suddenly. Consumers aren't going to be happy, although they would be even more upset if their house or business burned down. Naturally good communications, by various channels are necessary, so that users are aware of the reason for the outage and how the utility has reacted swiftly to solve the problems.

Wildfires are unfortunately going to continue to be a major challenge, and utilities need to keep abreast of the best technological solutions to this issue so damage, outages and fire losses can be minimized.


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