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Failure in Middlefield power line caused outage

Original post made on Aug 22, 2012

A failure in the underground power line along Middlefield Road between Loma Verde and Colorado avenues caused 1,958 Palo Alto utilities customers to lose power Tuesday, Aug. 21, according to a city utilities official.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 9:57 AM

Comments (8)

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Posted by Judith Schwartz
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2012 at 10:57 am

The story ends with "Utilities workers have not yet found the portion of failed line and are still working to replace the 20-year-old cables." With updated sensors and controls on the distribution system they would be able to find the problem areas immediately and not have to get lucky that crews are already nearby to search for source of the problem.

Why isn't our municipal utility, in the birth place of Silicon Valley, actively pursuing grid modernization along with the rest of California? In addition to the investor-owned utilities (PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE), even munis in Sacramento, Glendale, and Santa Clara are on the leading edge of this national transformation.

We have a community with a high concentration of people concerned about the environment, eager to purchase electric vehicles and rooftop solar. Power quality is important for the many computers, servers, and other digital equipment in our homes, hospitals, and businesses. We are going to need the capabilities of smart grid sooner than most other communities or risk frequent service disruptions.

What will it take to get the ball rolling here?

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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Probably for the same reason they don't bother to fix the traffic light timing.

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Posted by observeitall
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm

OOOO. Traffic light timing. Now, there's a concept! I agree with Silly.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm

"Katz said the crews were not responsible for the outage"
Maybe so, but the genius engineer who approved dumping extra load on the Colorado No. 23 line IS!

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a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2012 at 2:41 am

Can we start a community blog concerning Palo Alto apartment rental increase laws. a realestate agent just informed me that presently the city of Palo Alto has not established rent increase laws for realestate
giants who own the land and properties around Midtown , Layne Court properties.

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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 8:24 am

> A failure in the underground power line along Middlefield Road
> between Loma Verde and Colorado

> The failure activated the Colorado No. 23 feeder breaker, a
> protective device that interrupts service when a failure occurs,
> at 9:18 a.m., Utilities Communication Manager Debra Katz said.

While the City's information about this outage is more detailed than we have come to expect from these people, it still lacks much information.

For instance--what is a "failure" in an underground electrical cable? And if the field crews have characterized the problem as a "failure", why haven't they been able to find it in a cable run that is only about 1500 feet in length?

Most breakers are tripped by voltage/current spikes because of some sort of "short". Generally these sorts of things happen when insulation is cut, or weathers naturally to the point that water passes through the protective wall provided by the insulation and "shorts" out the cable. This sort of thing happens in homes/buildings when rodents decide to "munch out" on electrical wiring. Simple continuity tests usually find such shorts. Not the same in buried cable?

> Utilities workers have not yet found the portion of failed line
> and are still working to replace the 20-year-old cables.

Sometimes it's easier to replace something than try to find/fix it. This replacement work might make sense. However, the comment about 20-year old cable begs the question if the Utility has an on-going replacement program for all of its deployed infrastructure?

Heat/water/air/critters/sun light will degrade virtually all insulation over time. Having an on-going inspection/maintenance/refurbishment program is necessary to keep the infrastructure up and running. So, what is the Utility's nominal expectation for undergrounding of cable carrying this voltage/amperage?

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Posted by Jim
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

We were headed off on a short vacation when the first outage hit. We were able to restart everything before we left. Some 20 minutes after we departed, the second outage hit. When we got home two days later, we discovered everything in the freezer in our garage had melted or spoiled.....over $100 worth of food. So, is the city responsible? It seems like whenever there's an outage or some other problem, it always hits the Midtown area while other areas of the city are just fine. Time for city officials to make sure the entire city is taken care of, not just old Palo Alto.

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Posted by Furious Writer
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2012 at 9:05 am

I lost a manuscript that morning. I am furious and want to know what the city is going to do about compensating us for losses. This is not the first time Midtown has lost power. Please post the number for claims.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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