Ask Bob – September 2022

Bob Pierce headshot

Bob Pierce answers questions about energy efficiency, consumer products, and cooperative governance. He is Clearwater Power’s Chief Operating Officer and welcomes your questions on our Ask Bob page.

Q: I have noticed more power outages this summer. Can you tell us what is causing them?

A: Several things can cause a summertime outage, but one contributing factor is that our system operates differently when fire risks are high. From June 1st to October 1st, we change our system operation to reduce the risk of wildfire.

Normally, our system automatically turns back on after a breaker senses a fault on the line such as a tree branch blown into the line by a windstorm. This is because frequently the fault will clear on its own. By automatically reclosing (turning back on), the members only see a blink instead of an outage.

During fire season in high-risk areas, we change the settings on these breakers to non-reclose so that when they sense a fault, they trip off and the line stays dead until a lineman comes out and patrols the line for problems. Only after we carefully inspect the line is power restored.

This can definitely cause additional outages, but this operation lowers the risk of a branch or other fault causing a wildfire. This is just one of the measures that Clearwater Power Company is taking to reduce the risk of fire and is part of our Wildfire Mitigation Plan.