As Brian Chiu, from the Grid Resiliency and Public Safety Office of Southern California Edison, told an audience at Town Hall in May, SCE is taking steps to expand its use of weather forecasting and has been installing small weather stations locally to improve its awareness of the weather conditions and fire potential.
This is part of SCE’s plan to improve its preparation for wildfires, which have been increasing in number and size for years.
“As part of its fire preparedness, SCE began installing an initial 125 solar-powered weather stations this summer in communities throughout its 50,000-square-mile
territory to pinpoint local weather conditions in high fire risk areas. Two have been installed [on the Hill],” wrote Mary Ann Milbourn, the SCE media advisor, in an email.
The weather stations have software that enables them to “… forecast weather conditions down to a third of a mile area,” she wrote in an article.
The stations have sensors that detect several weather elements present at the station’s location. It is capable of measuring solar power, ambient air temperature and relative humidity, and wind speed.
The station includes a microprocessor that converts the sensor’s data into a local weather status. The station is powered with solar energy, but includes batteries for cloudy or rainy periods. This data is transmitted to the SCE Situational Awareness Center, and the station has a cellular antenna to identify weak cell-signal coverage.
These data help SCE make the decisions to turn off power to certain areas when the threat of wildfire could harm or exacerbate the conflagration’s size or direction, according to Milbourn.
“All of this information will be at the meteorologists’ fingertips in the Situational Awareness Center as well as for their day-to-day forecasting. These tools are expected to strengthen SCE’s current prevention strategies and increase coordination with first responders and affected communities when a wildfire starts,” she added.