In the era of climate change, natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more devastating. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), billion-dollar disaster frequency has increased more than five times since 1980’s. In the Western United States, one disaster stands out: wildfires. These destructive events are increasing in frequency and intensity, a trend directly correlated with climate change and human development.
Wildfires don’t just scorch the landscape and destroy homes; they also contribute significantly to climate change. While many people recognize wildfires as a byproduct of a changing climate, it’s crucial to understand they are also potent accelerators of global warming.
Not only do wildfires cause billions of dollars in damages and claim many lives each year, but they also emit enormous quantities of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. According to a new UCLA study, carbon pollution from California’s 2020 wildfires erased 16 years of the state’s greenhouse gas emission cuts. Additionally, these wildfires released approximately 140 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is nearly as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the passenger vehicles in California generate in a year. These staggering figures emphasize that wildfires, often overlooked as significant carbon emitters, play a substantial role in exacerbating climate change.
Photo of the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, CA, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
Amid these dire implications of wildfires, the role of powerlines, particularly those traversing forested and mountainous areas, in igniting wildfires becomes a point of significant concern. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that between 1992 and 2020, fire services grappled with an alarming 32,652 wildfires ignited by powerlines. Powerline sparks under severe, dry, and windy conditions are often the culprits. Yet, the destructive reach of these fires is often heightened by the very same conditions that cause powerline failures. Remote locations and challenging access only serve to magnify the issue, allowing these fires to burn uncontrollably for extended periods, significantly adding to the greenhouse gas emissions and ecological devastation.
Moreover, wildfires wreak havoc on utility infrastructure, causing widespread power outages that disrupt lives, impede emergency responses, and escalate the risk of more fires. Distribution lines running through forested areas are particularly vulnerable, with their destruction often leaving communities isolated and without power for extended periods. The aftermath is a double calamity: residents are left with no electricity, and utilities are compelled to perform costly repairs or scheduled power shutoffs to mitigate fire risk.
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Here is where BoxPower steps in. As an innovator in energy resilience, BoxPower designs standalone power systems that help utilities mitigate wildfire risks and increase reliability. By replacing hazardous distribution lines in forested and high fire-threat areas, BoxPower contributes significantly to enhancing grid resilience and reducing the probability of fire ignition from power infrastructure.
To help utilities accelerate their clean energy and disaster mitigation efforts, BoxPower has created a Microgrid Integration Survey (MGIS). This advanced tool employs satellite GIS data to analyze feasible microgrid locations within a utility’s service territory. By overlaying this data with risk factors such as wildfire zones and flood zones, the MGIS effectively identifies optimal locations for microgrid implementation.
BoxPower's Sagehen Field Station Microgrid in collaboration with Liberty Utilities that de-energizes powerlines during fire season
BoxPower’s complimentary MGIS offers utility and energy providers a valuable roadmap towards enhanced resilience and sustainability. By replacing hazardous distribution lines in high-risk zones with standalone power systems, utilities can significantly reduce wildfire threats, enhance energy reliability, and make strides in climate change mitigation. BoxPower’s solutions present a triple advantage – safer, more reliable, and lower-cost infrastructure for remote community power provision. This approach not only minimizes the potential for powerline-ignited wildfires but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, offering a sustainable, cost-effective alternative for energy providers and communities. Using the MGIS as a launching pad, utilities and energy providers are better equipped to proactively address the escalating wildfire crisis, fortify their infrastructure, and foster a more sustainable and resilient energy future with Remote Grids.
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