A decade ago, San Diego Gas & Electric® hired its first meteorologist and started building its own weather station network, to closely track how temperature, humidity and winds affect the power grid and plan accordingly to reduce wildfire risk. Today, SDG&E has 191 weather stations and has continued to expand and upgrade its weather network. In the past year, 14 stations have been added in areas of concern. The weather network’s capabilities have been upgraded which allows more frequent data download and weather observations every 30 seconds, instead of every ten minutes.
How are locations of weather stations determined?
After each extreme weather event that results in Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), the meteorology team does a review of the weather forecast that led up to the PSPS. The team determined where a greater density of weather stations would be beneficial to improve coverage in the future.
By looking at the geography and topography of our region’s landscape on Google Earth,
SDG&E’s meteorologists can see which areas have signature traits that are conducive to strong winds. After a physical inspection of the region, those areas are targeted for additional weather stations.
How is weather data leveraged for forecasting?
SDG&E’s network of weather stations collects approximately 200,000 pieces of weather data daily. Over the past decade, the network has generated 700 million pieces of data. Using sophisticated computer algorithms and supercomputers, the meteorologists can leverage the historical data to run wildfire simulations and determine which areas would be at the greatest risk of catastrophic wildfires.
What lessons have been learned?
SDG&E’s weather stations have clocked hurricane-force winds – over 100 miles an hour. This has led to stronger design and engineering standards for power lines and poles, based on local conditions. Also learned is that conventional wisdom about where you find the strongest winds isn’t true. The weather stations have showed that the strongest winds are often found on down slopes of mountains rather than canyons and passes.
For more information
Data collected by our weather station is made available to the public. Visit sdgeweather.com to learn more.