Utility Pacific Gas & Electric says it has installed hundreds of weather stations, including dozens locally, to help anticipate fire danger and reduce preventative blackouts.
Just off 101 at River Road, under a canopy of wires near hulking transformers, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras pointed at a silver box about the size of a mini-fridge. It's attached to the bulky support for a hi-tension line, delivering power from the Geysers.
"It measures wind speed, wind gusts, temperatures and humidity levels. The little fan-looking thing right there is an anemometer, which is a wind gauge, and then the other little device, that squiggly little device on the end measures humidity and temperatures."
The little box is part of a strategy to anticipate fires and quicken responses; both for crews to cut power, and to help get firefighters in the field before a fire can blow up.
"We have installed more than 1,200 of these weather stations, just since 2018. 73 of them are in Sonoma County, mostly located in high fire threat areas, the tier II and tier III high fire threat districts as outlined by the CPUC."
Contreras said the devices provide real-time, hyper-local data, helping technicians determine when to de-energize lines, and when it may not be necessary.
"The weather stations, all the devices we're putting on the lines, the sectionalizing devices that help break the grid up into smaller pieces, helps up more precisely pinpoint where we need to de-energize the lines as well as all the system hardening we're doing across Sonoma County, replacing wooden poles with steel poles, all of that stuff is reducing impacts of PSPS events on our customers."
According to Contreras, PGE plans to install another 100 of the devices, aiming for one station for every 20 miles of powerlines.