Oregon Power Provider Spends $20m in AI to Avoid Wildfires

Portland Oregon’s largest electricity provider, General Electric, announced on Wednesday(24 May 2023) that it will invest more than $20 million in its wildfire mitigation and resilience plan this year.

As part of this effort, utility poles will be inspected more thoroughly, the definition of “high-risk zones” will be broadened, and more cutting-edge tools, such as high-definition artificial intelligence cameras, will be put into place to identify wildfires.

PGE is spending more money than ever to ensure that its equipment doesn’t start a destructive wildfire and to put out any fires that start as soon as possible as the energy industry struggles to figure out how to respond to climate change.

In recent years, utilities have found that their potential liabilities are significant.

For their part in the 2017 and 2018 fires in California, some of which were started by downed power lines, former officials of Pacific Gas & Electric (not to be confused with Portland General Electric) agreed last year to pay $117 million in a settlement.

A tweet from the Yadkinville Fire Department is included below.

A massive California utility, PG&E, filed for bankruptcy after agreeing to pay $13.5 billion to fire victims.

And Oregon’s second-largest electric utility, PacifiCorp, could be forced to pay billions of dollars to wildfire victims in a class-action negligence lawsuit over allegations that it contributed to the devastating 2020 Labor Day wildfires that ravaged over a million acres and claimed the lives of nine people.

“Our wildfire-mitigation plan is really to protect people, property, and the natural environment,” said Kevin Putnam, PGE’s senior director of utility operations. “As Oregonians, we should all plan and we should all be prepared.”

In a 126-page study, PGE lays out its plans for the heavily forested eastern and western parts of its service area, which stretch from the Mount Hood corridor along Highway 26 to the Coast Range foothills and then south to Estacada. Most of the region is in and around Portland, but the company is also in charge of utilities in an area with more than 2.2 million trees.

PGE has ten “High Fire Risk Zones” in place, and this year it added two more: the Sandy region and Silver Falls State Park.

The possible effects of a fire caused by PGE equipment, as well as criteria including how long it would take to discover a fire, road accessibility, proximity to fire stations, and vegetation density, inform the placement of high-risk zones.

Vegetation management, which includes the cutting down and removal of trees that are dead, dying, or growing too close to electricity lines, will receive over $15 million.

Oregon Power Provider Spends $20m in AI to Avoid Wildfires

At a press briefing on Wednesday to showcase the business’s wildfire technology, PGE representatives said the company routinely replaces the 30,000 wooden poles it uses for its power lines with ductile iron poles in the forested “high-risk” zones. A spokesman for PGE estimated that their network contained 800 iron ductile poles.

The company conducted a pilot program to install 26 panoramic AI-enhanced cameras last year; these cameras immediately alert PGE and local public-safety agencies, as well as the Oregon Department of Forestry, the United States Forest Service, and the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, should they detect any signs of heat, smoke, or fire.

PGE claims the project was a success since in 2022, the cameras caught many small fires. The utility is increasing its surveillance of high-risk areas by six cameras this year, each of which will have a view of roughly 10 miles and will be installed on top of massive communication towers measuring several hundred feet in height.

Images from the cameras that include private dwellings or businesses are blurred before being collected by the corporation. Firefighters’ time spent trying to pinpoint the source of a fire can be drastically reduced by the use of cameras.

PGE said it is continuing an “Early Fault Detection” pilot project begun in 2021 that placed sensors — gray metal boxes resembling a home’s breaker panel — on utility poles to detect power-surge abnormalities that could cause ignition.

The following links will take you to external resources with further details about Oregon-

This comes on the heels of the company installing nearly 1,000 fire-safe fuses to its power network last year. All of these actions are being taken to lessen the likelihood of the very last resort of public-safety power shutoffs, which occur when severe weather makes it impossible to keep the power grid operational.

Information on wind speed, wind direction, and relative humidity that could lead to a power outage is collected by 69 meteorological stations across the territory. PGE personnel discovered equipment damage from fallen limbs and trees in September 2022, prompting them to shut off electricity to all ten high-risk zones and potentially thousands of consumers.

Louis Ebert

Louis Ebert is a talented content writer with a passion for creating compelling stories and informative articles. With years of experience in writing, Louis has honed their skills in crafting engaging content that resonates with readers.As a content writer for Focushillsboro.com, Louis explores the many facets of life in Hillsboro and the surrounding areas. From delving into the latest trends in local business to highlighting community events and leaders, their writing offers a unique perspective that captures the essence of the area.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top