EUREKA, Calif. — Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) today announced the Humboldt Bay Generating Station (HBGS) can now provide power directly to customers, if needed, during emergencies, including Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events and other events outside Humboldt County that are impacting the county. This is part of the company’s continuing effort to reduce impacts on its customers during a PSPS event and other wide-spread power outages.
Known as “islanding,” the re-configuring of the plant will allow portions of Humboldt County to be separated from the larger grid and energized exclusively from HBGS when transmission sources that import, export and stabilize power to nearby areas are impacted. Areas that can be powered by the HBGS include 20 cities and towns such as Eureka, Arcata, McKinleyville and Fortuna as well as some tribal communities.
“This represents a significant milestone, not just in Humboldt County where customers will benefit directly, but for all of the customers in our service area who will benefit as we look for innovative solutions to reduce the impact of Public Safety Power Shutoffs,” said Andy Vesey, PG&E Utility CEO and President.
Depending on the situation, as many as 67,000 customers who might have lost power when areas outside Humboldt County face extreme weather conditions, will remain energized, due to PG&E’s changing of the plant’s set-up. The size of the energized area is scalable to the scope of the potential PSPS event and other conditions that could be impacting the grid at the time.
A team of approximately 70 people from the company’s Power Generation, Electric Operations, local Customer Care team and other departments worked over the past six months to make this happen. The most recent effort included a successful test of the system’s capabilities on May 9. PG&E will continue to fine-tune the system and make additional transmission upgrades to improve functionality in the coming months.
“Our residents and businesses endured hardships during safety shutoffs even when there wasn’t a wildfire threat in Humboldt County. PG&E leadership answered our calls to make sure they did everything they can to reduce impacts next time. We thank PG&E for its dedication to serving the county with safe and reliable power,” said Rex Bohn, First District Supervisor for Humboldt County.
Sheriff Billy Honsal of Humboldt County agrees reliable power is needed now more than ever. “Especially during these difficult times when we are worried about everyone’s health and safety, we don’t need to worry about an event outside the county impacting our power right now,” Honsal said.
Vesey praised the partnership of Supervisor Bohn, Sheriff Honsal, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Eureka Chief Executive Dr. Roberta Luskin-Hawk and other community leaders. “As soon as the last PSPS event of 2019 ended, we set a goal to complete direct local powering capabilities before this next wildfire season. The team worked on air permitting, design changes, and testing activities to reach this goal. Safety was at the forefront of everyone’s minds, especially during the pandemic. We thank the community for its support in helping us with this major achievement,” Vesey said.
The HBGS employs 17 full-time workers in Humboldt County and contributes more than $4 million a year in property taxes and local sales taxes to Humboldt County. Operating since 2010, the 163-megawatt power plant uses 10 reciprocating engines that run on natural gas, with diesel fuel as a backup.
It is important for all Humboldt County customers to prepare for power outages. If there is a wildfire threat within the islanded area, PG&E could shut off the power for safety in Humboldt County. The sole purpose of a PSPS is to reduce the risk of major wildfires during severe weather. In 2020, PG&E has pledged to make any PSPS events smaller in size, shorter in duration and smarter for customers. For more information about how you can prepare for emergencies and PSPS events, visit PG&E’s Safety Action Center at www.safetyactioncenter.pge.com.