BPA plans for and manages hundreds of power outages each year. Some are planned, while others – often the most frustrating ones – are unplanned and caused by storms, trees, accidents and even fires.
Not all power outages in the Northwest are on BPA transmission lines. While BPA maintains 15,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines, our customer utilities themselves maintain even more miles of lower voltage distribution lines.
Planned power interruptions
Power interruptions that are prepared for and planned to allow line crews to safety conduct regular maintenance, improvements or equipment replacement.
BPA works with the local utility to select a time with as minimal impact to communities as possible and enable that utility to communicate the planned outage to their customers. In rare cases, BPA may have a short-notice planned outage, such as a public safety power shutoff which is an emergency procedure to help prevent wildfires. In most instances, BPA has multiple transmission line feeds to an area and power is not interrupted, however there are a few areas in the Northwest into which BPA has only one transmission line.
If you are experiencing a power outage, contact your local electric utility.
Unplanned power interruptions
Power interruptions typically resulting from fallen trees, severe weather, animals, vehicle or equipment accidents, and even fires.
These outages are
usually longer in duration due to the many variables involved in restoring
power as well as the weather, accessibility and location conditions.
Wildfires and power transmission
Before a wildfire:
- BPA may enact a public safety power shutoff, which is an emergency procedure of last resort to help prevent wildfires.
- BPA may deenergize lines or substations at the request of fire officials to allow firefighters to safely fight wildfires approaching our transmission infrastructure.
- Crews may be on the ground patrolling and preparing even before a fire begins threatening our lines.
Following a wildfire:
- BPA line crews rely on firefighters’ expertise and wait for clear guidance from fire officials before we enter an impacted area. After fire crews allow BPA line workers into an area, our crews make their own safety calls.
- If lines are damaged or out of service, our line crews work around the clock to assure that we energize lines as soon as it is safe to do.
- Even if lines aren’t damaged, we may not be able to reenergize due to smoke under the lines. Smoke can create a path between the transmission wire and the ground known as electrical arcing. The heat and energy emitted by the arcing current can cause significant injury or death to anyone exposed to it.