Senior decision-makers come together to connect around strategies and business trends affecting utilities.


You need to be a member of Energy Central to access some features and content. Please or register to continue.


Electric utility people - I want you to imagine the most mischievous 3 year old child you have ever known.

Electric utility people - I want you to imagine the most mischievous 3 year old child you have ever known. With this child in your house you accidentally leave a Sharpie marker on your countertop. Wouldn’t it be nice to know the instant the 3 year old grasps the oh so sweet Sharpie before they mark up everything? The sooner you know that the 3 year old has a Sharpie the better!

So applying this to electric utilities that serve extreme fire threat areas, don’t you want to know the exact time and location where your “crazy pyromaniac” transmission and distribution assets may have started a fire with a fault? How about self reporting the possible fire start location (depending on fire and weather conditions) within seconds of the fault itself? How practical would it be to deploy a firefighting team or a fire scout for every fault when fire conditions were at worst case scenario? What technology are you willing to deploy (and develop) to improve your fault location accuracy? A fire is just like a 3 year old with a Sharpie, the sooner you catch it the less destruction.

Peter Jereb's picture

Thank Peter for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 22, 2019 3:00 pm GMT

Peter, a better alternative might have been to replace/maintain PG&E's "crazy pyromaniac" transmission and distribution assets before they became a problem.

A "stitch in time" might have prevented the deaths of 151 people and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres, mightn't it?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 22, 2019 6:19 pm GMT

Seems like both solutions have a very suitable place-- even with a well kept T&D system, you still always have some degree of risk. So I'd want to maybe replace the Sharpie with a magic marker and then also have an alert when the market is picked up (Maybe stretching your initial analogy Peter, but my point remains!)

Peter Jereb's picture
Peter Jereb on Jul 22, 2019 6:28 pm GMT

I don’t believe maintenance is an alternative, it is a requirement.

Utilities must maintain their property.  If they don’t they may cease to exist, and will do great harm that cannot be undone.  PG&E failed, no denying that.

  A well maintained, robust and “hardened” system is the first line of defense.  What is beyond the first line of defense?  What is going to protect people better?  That is what I’m asking people to ponder.  

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 22, 2019 9:52 pm GMT

Years ago after the Station Fire down here in L.A.  I thought of an idea for a system mounted on a long stake, which could be planted into mountaintops in remote areas. The systems would include an infrared-frequency detector on one or more sides, tuned to identify the specific red/infrared frequencies and burn/smoke patterns associated with wildfires. With power from solar panels mounted on top, they would transmit a coded radio signal to local fire authorities giving the computed lat/lon of possible fires.

It didn't take long during my patent search to discover someone had patented a vaguely similar system four years earlier. Nonetheless, I have yet to see or hear of this cost-effective approach to early detection. What's wrong with my idea?

Peter Jereb's picture
Peter Jereb on Jul 23, 2019 2:41 am GMT

Automated heat detection cameras exist, and are being utilized.  I have heard of a fire safe council near Shasta County CA that is working on funding a multiple mountaintop IR heat detection system.

Only downsides I can see are that heat detection cameras need line of sight, and they may not be able to report a fire start as early as other technology.

Traveling wave relays on transmission paired with IR heat detection and automated self reporting that is GPS tagged for firefighting...  Now we’re taking!


Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »