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Posted on June 12, 2013

Calaveras County: Electric Crew Improving Customer Reliability One Power Pole at a Time

By David Kligman

VALLEY SPRINGS — Electric reliability has never been better for PG&E customers.

Jim Patterson, left, and Ed Beeler work in bucket trucks on an energized power line that’s getting upgrades as part of a system-wide project to improve electric reliability for customers. (Photos by David Kligman.)

Last year, the average duration for a service interruption fell to an all-time low and in the first quarter of 2013 reliability improved even further — the fewest outages and the fastest restoration time in the company’s history.

As Geisha Williams, executive vice president of electric operations says, the improvements are no accident.

“It’s important for our customers because it means they have fewer disruptions in their daily lives, less disruption to our businesses and commerce,” Williams said during a recent groundbreaking in Concord for a new electric distribution control center. “And this is not by chance. The reason that we have improved reliability is because of the significant investments we’ve been making to the system in recent years.”

A systematic approach to upgrades

Part of the reason for the increased reliability is a systematic approach to finding the most problematic circuits and upgrading them. The work is being performed throughout PG&E’s entire territory — from Humboldt County to Kern County.

In Calaveras County, Stockton-based equipment operator Tom Patterson watches every move of fellow crew members while improving electric reliability on some of PG&E’s most problematic circuits.

The upgrades are even happening on a remote road in Calaveras County, where a three-man PG&E crew with 85 years of combined service recently worked on a circuit that has had repeated outages.

Working in bucket trucks on an energized line, Jim Patterson and Ed Beeler wear long rubber gloves while carefully wrapping the power line with rubber blankets to perform the work. Then they replaced outdated connectors, which connect one wire to another.

To keep employees and the public safe, Patterson said, you have to be methodical about the task and take your time.

Meanwhile, equipment operator Tom Patterson watched their every move, ready to call out a warning or ferry them tools.

The lines could be de-energized to do the work, but that would disrupt power to customers like Steven Avery, who said he’s appreciative of the work.

“It’s real important to us to have reliable PG&E service,” said Avery, who’s retiring to the area from Santa Cruz.

Outages on upgraded circuits reduced

By the end of 2013, some 330 circuits will have been upgraded over the past five years. The work is already paying off — outages on upgraded circuits have been reduced by 30 percent while the average duration of outages has decreased by 50 percent.

Equipment operator Tom Patterson shows the old connectors, left, that his crew replaced with a new aluminum connector.

The work includes replacing broken cross arms, installing new poles, swapping out damaged connectors and adding animal guards that keep perching birds from spreading their wings and being harmed.

In Calaveras County, the job will improve reliability for nearby Lake Camanche, popular with boaters and campers.

Once the upgrades were completed, Jim Patterson repeated a phrase he says after every job: “We’re trying to make the world a better place one pole at a time.”

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