More than five million people were without power in Florida Monday after Hurricane Irma barreled through. That’s triple the population of the entire state of Idaho. Although Idaho doesn’t have hurricanes, Idaho Power customers can face outages due to fire, high winds, and occasional flooding.
For more than a decade, we have focused on making our system more resistant to these natural disasters and more resilient. Here are some examples:
- We tighten sagging power lines to reduce the chances of them “slapping” together during high winds.
- We trim trees and bushes to keep them from touching lines and other equipment.
- We install special equipment to minimize birds and other animals contacting energized lines.
- We test and treat about 40,000 wood power poles each year across our service area to ensure they’re sound, and in some cases, we replace wooden poles with steel ones.
- We clear flammable vegetation around wooden structures in fire-prone areas, reducing loss during wildfire from 60 percent to around five percent.
With more than 32,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines spread across 24,000 miles, it’s impossible to avoid all outages. That’s why Idaho Power, like other electric utilities, has plans in place to restore power after a storm or fire. That can begin with cutting power to any downed lines, as is the case in Florida and Georgia. Then we restore power when it’s safe to do so, starting with power plants and transmission lines, moving to substations, emergency responders, large service areas and individual homes.
In the case of flooding, like that experienced by many of our customers in the Wood River Valley or near the Boise River earlier this spring, equipment may have to be inspected and repaired after the water recedes before being re-energized. People enduring the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma will have to do the same.
In the southeast, many power plants are offline with nowhere to send electricity. But with an army of 50,000 workers from the U.S. and Canada, they will work around the clock to restore power to customers. Those utilities will follow the same process to bring customers and power plants back online.
For more on how the electrical industry serves customers after a disaster or widespread outage, contact us, or visit EEI.org.