By Chris Whipple
Photo: Alpine residents Sally and Brian Shepherd speaking with Robyn Herrick and Israel Juarez of SDGE.
November 21, 2019 (Alpine) -- East County residents braved the rain Monday evening to attend a community presentation at the Alpine Library titled, "Got Power?" Representatives from KAMPS Propane, SDG&E, and Clayco Electric Inc. Solar answered questions about the Public Safety Power Shutoff program in East County during Santa Ana, high-wind conditions. Chris Whipple, a resident of Flinn Springs, also made a brief presentation about back-up power plans that allow her to use her medical CPAP equipment when the power is out.
"It's all about collaboration,” said Robyn Herrick, the SDG&E Community Resilience specialist.
Photo, right: Robyn Herrick, SDG&E Community Resilience Spec. Fire Science and Climate Adaptation and Richard Edwords of KAMPS Propane, Alpine.
Having public forums like this allow members of the public to be more resilient during planned outages. During planned outages, residents of Alpine may take advantage of a Community Resource Center located in Descanso to obtain water, snacks, ice, charge their phones, and obtain up-to-date information on the power outage. SDG&E Resource Centers will also have a water truck to dispense water for livestock, but residents need to bring their own vessels to transport the water.
SDG&E has a 30 minute documentary, "Everything in Our Power", that will be shown on several news stations on December 1, 2019 (http://www.sdgenews.com/article/everything-our-power-provides-behind-scenes-look-sdges-wildfire-safety-innovations). The documentary is also available on YouTube and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the equipment and methods used by SDG&E to help prevent catastrophic wildfires. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdkY3P4JWLc
Generators and the math needed to determine what type of generator or solar power is needed to run essential appliances such as chest freezers, refrigerators, and lights were discussed by Richard Edwords of KAMPS Propane Alpine and Clayton Mauldin of Clayco Electric Inc. Solar. There were a lot of questions from the audience, and it was quickly apparent that some of the attendees had no idea of what they may need to have safe, cost-effective, back-up power during outages. They are available by phone to answer your questions on generators and solar power during outages: Richard Edwords, Kamps Propane Alpine (800) 797-4GAS and Clayton Mauldin of Clayco Electric, Inc., (619) 971-2799.
Edwords said that there are bi- and tri-fuel generators available that can run on gasoline, natural gas, and propane. Propane and diesel generators are the safest since the fuel is less flammable. Large, whole-house diesel generators are available, but they can be four times the cost of smaller units and they also require a great deal of fuel. Most people would be better off to obtain a smaller generator in the 1800 watt to 3000 watt range that can run essential appliances like freezers and refrigerators until the power outage ends. Inverters, available on Amazon for about $100, can be used with a 12V car battery, and can also power smaller appliances like LED lighting. (An inverter changes the DC voltage to alternating current, AC, before sending it out to power a device.) In most cases, keeping the freezer and refrigerator cold and a few lights available until the power outage ends is sufficient.
Photo, left: Chris Whipple, resident of Flinn Springs, explaining her "system" to provide back-up power for her CPAP medical equipment
Generators should generally be run at about 70 percent of capacity, said Edwords. Even though the extra 30 percent of power is available, it is best to reserve this extra power for the "surge" that occurs when many electronics first start up. He compared running a generator at 100% of capacity to running a car at 100 miles per hour. Yes, you could drive a car at 100 miles per hour, but it is not very efficient.
Mauldin advised the audience to keep these three questions in mind when looking at solar systems: How much room is in your home? What are your goals for solar power? What is your budget for solar power? For instance, standby generators with automatic switches, while superb products, are very expensive and can be as much as $7,500. If that price is out of reach, there are alternative products that start at around $750. By 2020, the overall prices of solar products should be going down and availability for different products should increase since new products are being introduced.
What about the need to power medical equipment like a CPAP? Chris Whipple, a lifelong resident of East County, shared her back-up power "system" using 12V deep cycle batteries, a 25 amp solar charger and a trickle charger to keep the batteries in tip-top shape. Back-up power is tricky and complex. There is no "quick" answer, but Whipple wants to share the word that there IS a way to run a CPAP for 3-5+ days if needed without resorting to a generator and gasoline or fuel storage.
If you have questions, you may contact her at (619) 277-7918 and she will share the information about the products that work for her.