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Technology to keep lights on could help prevent wildfires

[2019.12.02, Mon 06:03] Texas A&M said the technology will also be tested in New Zealand and Australia, which is currently reeling from destructive wildfires. It can anticipate many problems in their early stages - sometimes years before they cause an outage or present a greater hazard during high winds when utilities are now pre-emptively shutting off power to prevent sparking wildfires. Before the technology was developed, electric companies often didn't know they had a problem until there was a failure or a customer called to report sparks on power lines or a loss of electricity. "The assumption the utility has to make today is it's healthy until we get a call that says somebody's lights out," Russell said. The utility serves areas so rural that before the technology was installed, electricity powering a pump on a well could have been off for days before being detected by a farmer. PG&E, which is testing the technology on nine circuits, was driven into bankruptcy protection this year while facing at least $20 billion in losses from a series of deadly and destructive wildfires in 2017 and 2018.SoCal Edison recently agreed to pay $360 million to local governments to settle lawsuits over deadly wildfires sparked by its equipment during the last two years. While the system has helped proactively diagnose problems and detect the cause of outages, the university team that developed it can often find problems the utility's control room operators don't detect.
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