SCE Upgrades Mean More Power, Less View for Some in LCF

Photo by Mirjam Swanson / OUTLOOK Southern California Edison is replacing power poles like the one in Dave Nydam’s front yard with even larger poles to better support new equipment aimed at increased reliabilty.
Photo by Mirjam Swanson / OUTLOOK
Southern California Edison is replacing power poles like the one in Dave Nydam’s front yard with even larger poles to better support new equipment aimed at increased reliabilty.

Dave Nydam wants to warn fellow La Cañada Flintridge residents who might also have their front yard encroached upon by upgraded Southern California Edison equipment: It could happen to you.
If it does, a SCE representative said, an impeded view is something of a symbol of improved electrical reliability in the neighborhood, which will be safer for it.
On Thursday, June 8, Nydam was surprised to find a crew at work in his front yard along Hillard Avenue, replacing a pole — 15 inches in diameter — that was planted in the public right-of-way two years ago, with one that measured 18 inches in diameter.
According to SCE spokesman Robert Villegas, the larger pole was required by the state in order to better support the remote automatic reclosure system that was put atop the pole two years ago.
The sturdier pole might do better in a windstorm, but in Nydam’s view, it isn’t an aesthetic improvement.
“I used to have a little pole with normal stuff on top,” Nydam said. “Now I have a mini-power station in my front yard.”
The purpose of that “mini-power station,” Villegas said, is to provide more reliable power to Nydam and his neighbors.
“What happens is you have a circuit that can support any number of homes,” Villegas said. “And when something happens to the traditional circuit, everybody on the circuit goes down, whether it’s a fallen wire, a car accident or a mylar balloon in the wires.
“But with the automatic reclosure, it senses some problem on the circuit, opens the circuit, creates a bit of an island so everyone beyond that structure would remain operational, and that reduces the number of customers who would be affected. So instead of having 100 people lose power, you’d have 30 or 35 go down.”
Nydam said he received a similar explanation when he inquired with the utility about the purpose of all the equipment looming over his home. He also wondered whether his front yard was really the optimum location for it.
“Can’t they move it to a canyon, or a corner?” he wondered.
No, Villegas said. The locations of the large remote automatic reclosure devices are strategic according to the area they cover.
“We don’t want to put it at the end of a circuit, then it’s only going to help two customers at the very end of the line,” Villegas said. “We want to break it up somewhere in the middle of the circuit and get bigger bang for the buck.”
Villegas said this sort of technology, as well as other improvements such as replacing the old 4 kilovolt system with a 16 kv system, is in response to an ever-growing demand for electricity.
“Back in the day, no one had five TV sets or two refrigerators, but that is actually very common today,” Villegas said. “People have additional demands for power. Maybe they buy an electric vehicle — those things consume a significant amount of power. So, just like residents who do upgrades on their home, that’s what we’re doing, making sure people have what they need.”
Resigned to accept the new additions, Nydam is unhappy about the timing of the work — especially because he’d received no warning beyond a courtesy letter the city sent April 24 advising that SCE would be by, at some point, to do the work.
Unaware that he’d be losing power for most of Thursday, Nydam said he was working from home, hosting an important conference call when his electricity was disrupted — abruptly ending his participation in the meeting.
Villegas said that was “an oversight.” He attributed it to a problem with SCE’s mapping system.
Usually, Villegas said, residents are supposed to be automatically notified via post cards describing the work at least 72 hours in advance. In this case, Villegas said SCE would update its map so that Nydam and at least one other neighbor who was surprised by the outage would be notified going forward.
Nydam said the process made him feel helpless, and he expects he won’t be the only one.
“There is nothing as a resident of La Cañada that you can do,” he said. “Edison can come in and put in a massive thing in your front yard where you used to look out at the sunrise, and there’s nothing you can do.
“And this may happen to other people.”
That, Villegas said, is almost certainly true.
“People may be seeing more of the remote systems going forward, that’s the trend,” Villegas said. “We want to make sure we have the appropriate equipment.”

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