Keeping the lights on: An ongoing report of local power conditions
Uploaded: Thursday, January 18, 2001 9:38 a.m.

Rolling blackouts hit Palo Alto
Statewide emergency finally leads to outage orders

by Don Kazak

Several Palo Alto neighborhoods lost power for about an hour Wednesday afternoon as rolling blackouts were put in motion to conform with a statewide edict.

"We were told we had to reduce our power by 4.1 percent," said Linda Clerkson, public affairs manager for the Palo Alto Utilities Department.

The state's Independent System Operator (ISO), which controls the statewide power grid, declared a Stage Three alert at 1:45 a.m. Wednesday, when state power reserves dropped below 1.5 percent of the system's capacity.

The blackouts were instituted at noon, but then lifted at 2 p.m.

While there was a chance that the rolling blackouts would begin again at 6 p.m. Wednesday, the ISO was able to buy enough electricty from other sources to avoid that. But a Stage Three alert was reinstituted again at midnight.

Gov. Gray Davis also signed an emergency order Wednesday night authorizing the state to buy power to avoid future shortages.

When rolling blackouts are triggered by the ISO, Palo Alto is told how much of its electricity consumption has to be reduced. It's up to the city to determine how to do that.

The city is divided into 20 "blocks" on its power grid, numbered sequentially. Each block in turn goes dark, and then moves to the back of the rotation. For a list of the blocks and the order of a rolling blackout, see, the Website for the Utilities Department. That page also has a place to click to determine which block any address is in.

Block 7 on the city's grid lost power at noon Wednesday. That includes several neighborhoods in the northern and central part of the city, from Crescent Park to Midtown. At 1 p.m. Block 14 and part of Block 13 were taken off the grid. That includes Green Acres, Monroe Park, part of Charleston Meadows and part of College Terrace.

The next block on the rotation, as of Thursday morning, is Block 12, which includes part of Stanford Research Park.

The state's continuing energy crisis is caused by some power plants being offline because of maintenance or other problems. The Stage Three alerts may continue until more power plants are built in the state, Clerkson said.

In addition to checking the Utility Department Web site during a Stage Three alert, residents can call (650) 496-6914 for information on the areas affected.


Palo Alto Online
© 2000 Palo Alto Online.