pg&e_meter.jpgOn San Francisco’s Yukon Street, a nub of a road tucked into the hillside below Market Street near Twin Peaks, the sounds of passing cars provide the neighborhood’s ambient soundtrack on any given night.

But when a transformer on that street blew up Tuesday night, the relative quiet was disrupted by an explosion that could be heard and felt in neighborhoods as far away as Potrero Hill.

At 10:14 p.m., a fireball that appeared to be several stories high shot into the sky, and the area surrounding the Kite Hill Open Space went dark.

About 15 minutes later, fire trucks snaked up the hillside to Yukon Street, near where Market Street becomes Portola Drive.

Fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said that multiple callers, both on Yukon Street and in other neighborhoods, reported a small fire and that firefighters initially had trouble finding the blaze.

Talmadge said that a unit was dispatched at 10:18 p.m. and arrived at Christmas Tree Place–atop Twin Peaks–four minutes later. At that time, a backup unit was dispatched to the area of 20th and Douglass streets, several blocks downhill from Yukon Street.

The crews eventually found the fire, and extinguished the flames at 11:01 p.m. after PG&E de-energized the transformer, Talmadge said.

PG&E also dispatched crews to the neighborhood to respond to reports of a power outage, and Talmadge said the incident was treated as a joint response once it was determined that the fire involved a pole-mounted transformer.

Roughly 275 PG&E customers lost power because of the equipment failure, according to a PG&E spokesman. The utility is still investigating what caused the problem.

“Typically these types of failures occur when there’s a spike in power demand,” PG&E spokesman Jason King said this morning.

That spike in demand, King said, can be caused by the introduction of a power-hungry device, such as an electric car, equipment for a home office or an indoor grow operation.

He urged customers to alert PG&E if they plan to use a device that needs that much power so that the company can anticipate increases in demand.

An electric car can require as much as three households worth of energy, King said, which he said is why PG&E works with electric car dealers so that it is notified when customers bring new cars on the grid.

As of this morning, PG&E had not yet identified what caused the failure.

King did not have information about the age of the equipment or frequency of such failures.

“They’re not a common occurrence, but they do happen,” he said.

Power was restored to all but 58 customers at 4 a.m., and was fully restored by 6:05 a.m., King said.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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  • MikeN

    I can’t believe PG&E is claiming electric cars use “3 households worth of energy.” My electric vehicle conversion uses less power than 2 big-screen TVs and WAY less than a clothes dryer! To be precise, it uses 15A at 110V or 10A at 220V. (It can charge with either.) That is 1600W or 2200W. For comparison, a plug-in electric heater is 1500W.

    The car charges for 8 hours per day from a 50 mile commute. When charged for 8 hours every workday, my EV will use 240 kWh in a month. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average home uses over 900 kWh per month. See: http://205.254.135.24/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3

    PG&E has already adjusted to a load bigger than Electric Vehicles so far, when they lived through the widespread adoption of wide-screen televisions.

    It’s time to get real and fix the equipment that is too old for the job.

    Mike

  • MikeN

    I can’t believe PG&E is claiming electric cars use “3 households worth of energy.” My electric vehicle conversion uses less power than 2 big-screen TVs and WAY less than a clothes dryer! To be precise, it uses 15A at 110V or 10A at 220V. (It can charge with either.) That is 1600W or 2200W. For comparison, a plug-in electric heater is 1500W.

    The car charges for 8 hours per day from a 50 mile commute. When charged for 8 hours every workday, my EV will use 240 kWh in a month. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average home uses over 900 kWh per month. See: http://205.254.135.24/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3

    PG&E has already adjusted to a load bigger than Electric Vehicles so far, when they lived through the widespread adoption of wide-screen televisions.

    It’s time to get real and fix the equipment that is too old for the job.

    Mike

  • brucedp

    PG&E’s statement blatantly besmirches all EVs lumping them all together as a huge power surge culprit, and as a bad-guy like an illegal pot grower. They just pulled a desperate ear-biting Tyson act: feebly scapegoating EVs for their Corporate greed of taking consumer money but not doing the job they told the PUC they would do. Shame on you media outlet for printing as fact PG&E’s salacious deflecting of their blame.

  • brucedp

    PG&E’s statement blatantly besmirches all EVs lumping them all together as a huge power surge culprit, and as a bad-guy like an illegal pot grower. They just pulled a desperate ear-biting Tyson act: feebly scapegoating EVs for their Corporate greed of taking consumer money but not doing the job they told the PUC they would do. Shame on you media outlet for printing as fact PG&E’s salacious deflecting of their blame.