Oregon power companies investing in wildfire mitigation strategies

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 12:44 PM PDT
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(KPTV) - As Oregon nears the peak of fire season, the state’s two biggest electricity providers are using cutting-edge technology and modeling to prepare for potential impacts to the power grid.

At Pacificorp, Meteorology Manager Steve Vanderburg uses 30 years of past fire and weather data to simulate how a new wildfire might behave.

“We’re here to help pull in and generate all of that environmental data and then translate it into some kind of forecast that lets our company know where the impacts could be, how bad they could be, and where we need to take action,” said Vanerburg.

Portland General Electric employs a similar strategy, also incorporating artificial intelligence to detect new fire starts.

“We’re constantly checking our data, constantly validating what our decision models are,” said Dan Nunez, PGE’s Wildfire Planning and Analytics Manager.

Both utilities use their modeling systems to help guide decisions about protecting the power grid, including the difficult decision to shut off power lines in especially high-risk situations.

“In that situation, if we take it out proactively before that tree branch has an opportunity to come in contact with a line or before a wire has potential to slap, you’ve now eliminated that ignition risk,” said Vanderburg.

Pacificorp has also made its weather forecasting technology available to the public, at pacificpowerweather.com.