Published by the Oregonian: Power Outages, Wildfires and Microgrids

by Lisa Cohn and Elisa Wood

At the Silvies Ranch outside of Burns, 600 off-grid homes are now under construction. Because it was too expensive to run power from the utility to the ranch, each homeowner will have a microgrid made up of solar panels and energy storage that provide electricity.

The project provides benefits other than saving money. The homes are energy independent, meaning they are unaffected by whatever happens on the utility grid. They will have heat, lighting and air conditioning even if the local utility implements a “public power safety shutoff” like the ones that happened in California last fall when Pacific Gas & Electric shut down distribution lines to avert sparking fires from its electrical equipment. The move cut off power to more than a million customers in California.

That same scenario could happen in Oregon. Pacific Power and other utilities have said they may shut off power in areas of Oregon if the risk of wildfires is high.

Continue reading in the Oregonian.