By JOSH FRIEDMAN
For the third time since Monday, and at least the fifth time in the last 10 days, residents in the Santa Margarita area have lost power.
Some residents were without power portions of Monday, Tuesday and today. Last week, some residents were without power on portions of Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
Thursday’s outage began at 6:30 a.m. As of 9 a.m., 223 customers are without power, according to PG&E.
PG&E estimates power will be restored at 1:30 p.m. However, recent outages in the Santa Margarita area have been lasting about 20 hours, while PG&E generally estimated power would be restored four to five hours after the outage began.
On Tuesday, PG&E spokesman Eric Daniels addressed the slew of recent outages during the SLO County Board of Supervisor meeting. Daniels said the unplanned outages are because of PG&E’s new “fast trip” feature, which automatically shuts off power when an object strikes a line in order to prevent equipment-sparked wildfires.
Because of this, a tree branch or a bird hitting a wire can lead to a lengthy power outage.
“These fast trip settings have a sensitivity, and what we’re finding is they’re overreacting,” Daniels said. “We’re trying to hone that in.”
PG&E installed the fast trip feature across areas at high risk for wildfires. Installation of the fast trip feature along highways 58, 46 and 41 may have triggered recent outages. The outages sometimes impact thousands of customers.
Once the outage occurs, crews embark on a lengthy inspection process of all wires in the area, which must take place during daylight hours. Power is then restored to customers in stages as individual portions of the inspection process are completed.