Palo Alto Weekly Online Edition
Uploaded: Thursday, May 10, 2001, 1:50 p.m.

Palo Alto could avoid blackouts
Diesel generators could get city through the summer

by Geoff S. Fein

During a week in which portions of the Bay Area suffered through another series of rolling blackouts, Palo Alto is finalizing steps to ensure lights will remain on when the power is cut. The city is installing four 1.3-megawatt diesel generators at the Municipal Service Center. The systems could provide uninterrupted power if Palo Alto is hit with outages this summer.

The generators will be operational by Monday.

"The utility is viewing this (getting the generators working) as urgent," he said.

The generators will only be used when the city is ordered to cut power by the California Independent System Operator (ISO), the agency that oversees the state's transmission lines. Power during a Stage 3 blackout is cut in specific geographic regions for up to an hour at a time. The generators will help to keep power flowing to those areas.

"A good way is to view it as an insurance policy," said Richard Ferguson, a member of the Utilities Advisory Commission.

The city estimates the generators will provide 2 percent of the city's 200-megawatt load and reduce the need for utility customers with diesel generators to run them during power outages.

The city will spend approximately $650,000 to lease the generators for three months. Then the city plans to spend $3.5 million to buy several natural gas generators that will provide 5-megawatts of power. That system is scheduled to go online in August.

The cost of renting the three generators will be covered by slight increases in utility bills: $1.10 per month for residential customers; $26.34 per month for small commercial businesses; $775.23 a month for medium-sized commercial businesses; and $5,701 per month for large commercial customers.

The generators will be located at the Municipal Services Center on East Bayshore Road near Pacific Gas & Electric's high-pressure gas line and near a 12 kilovolt feeder line. <@endbullet>

E-mail Geoff S. Fein at




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