By David Kligman
BODEGA BAY – The Sonoma County coast is known for its remote beaches and towns like Bodega Bay — popular destinations for locals and visitors. But keeping power flowing in locations that are subject to wind and wet, salty sea air can be a challenge.
That’s why PG&E has made some big-time improvements along a nearly 50-mile stretch of coastline that is among the most problematic electric circuits in the utility’s territory.
“The goal was to reduce the number of outages and take this from being one of the worst performing circuits to really one of our more reliable circuits,” contract project manager Glenn Woodson said.
For the past three weeks, 15 crews of electric line workers replaced hardware on more than 100 poles. The work happened in foggy, brisk conditions in rugged terrain overlooking the windy two-lane Highway 1.
Two helicopters also assisted by ferrying light-duty steel poles and other equipment to crews working in steep, hilly areas that were difficult to reach by truck.
PG&E officials say poor reliability in the area is due to hardware corroded by ever-present moisture and salt air. Electric transmission supervisor Bob Grantham said the type of corrosion is something not seen in inland parts of the state.
“You might get some staining, but nothing even remotely close to what you see out on the coast,” he said.
Line workers replaced dampers, which prevent lines from swaying. They swapped old ceramic insulators with new plastic composite insulators that better withstand the elements. They adapted the system to allow for a possible increased electric load—from 60 KV to 115 KV. And they re-framed poles to better protect predatory birds that perch on the lines.
Meanwhile, back in Bodega Bay, there’s important work happening at PG&E’s Salmon Creek substation. Transformer banks are being tested, insulators are being replaced and the entire substation is getting a thick coat of rust-resistant paint.
“What we’ve been able to do here is significantly increase the reliability of service to Bodega Bay,” said Cait McClure, substation project manager for PG&E. “We’ve been able to take the rust factor out of possible failures for this station and really getting the switches in good working order.”
Four generators powered the town last week, allowing the work to place without customer outages. The project officially ended early Saturday (Aug. 25) when the power switched from the generators back to the circuit.
Sissy Blanchard, who co-owns a wine bar in Bodega Bay, was thrilled to learn about the electric upgrades. She says the improvements will benefit the area and a town that depends on tourists—and reliable power.
“Knowing that PG&E is doing that really gives me peace of mind to know that the power isn’t going to go out, especially during the winter,” Blanchard said. “It’s nice to know that that’s happening. Thank you. Thank you PG&E.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com