By Tracy Correa
BAKERSFIELD — Working inside of what looks like a concrete box, PG&E lineman Paul Begley drilled and hammered against a backdrop of cable and lines. His work is part of a project to minimize outages in this southwest Bakersfield neighborhood.
The local work underway on Norseman Street near West High School is part of a system-wide electrical upgrade by PG&E. Similar upgrades are under way to improve the reliability of electrical service for PG&E customers throughout Northern and Central California under a program launched in 2009.
On Tuesday (Oct. 9), Kern County media got a chance to see some of the work on this otherwise quiet residential street lined by apartments on one side and high school sports fields on the other.
The Bakersfield neighborhood where the upgrade work was taking place is served by the Stockdale Substation that serves about 47,000 customers. PG&E identified the area from Highway 99 to White Lane and Gosford Road as having a large amount of interruptions. There have been more than 90 outages in the last six months due to third-party incidents or equipment failure.
Isolating a problem
Now, work is under way as crews are installing special line equipment in more than a dozen locations to help locate and limit the impact of customer outages.
Before the upgrade work, it was difficult to isolate an outage, said Nick Walker, a Kern division lineman.
Think of it sort of like a string of Christmas lights: One bulb blows, the others might go dark because they are on the same circuit.
“Now, it can be isolated to just the one tap line,” said Walker. He said it can be the difference between having 10 customers affected, or 300 customers affected.
The connectors were installed Tuesday that will allow crews to isolate the outage and significantly reduce the impact to customers as well as the duration of the outage.
“The significant upgrades that our crews are making right now will lead to more reliable service for customers along this circuit who have experienced numerous outages in the past,” said Walker.
Four projects in 2012, six next year
Four targeted circuit projects were completed in Bakersfield this year and six are slated for 2013. The work targets PG&E’s most problematic circuits for inspections, upgrades or other measures to prevent outages.
Since the program began three years ago, outages on upgraded circuits have been reduced by 30 percent and outage duration decreased by 50 percent.
PG&E invests more than a billion dollars a year on its electric distribution infrastructure throughout its Northern and Central California service area. Crews are working underground and overhead to enhance the reliability of the electric system, which includes more than 141,000 circuit miles of distribution lines and more than 18,000 circuit miles of interconnected transmission lines.
Last year, PG&E reduced the number of outages its customers experienced to an all-time low, and improved service restoration times to their best level in 10 years.
Email Tracy Correa at email@example.com