PUD says installation of new Ridgefield substation will minimize interruptions

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Power outages are an uncommon and inconvenient experience, especially when they are unexpected. Over the past couple of months, Ridgefield residents might have experienced a few more power outages than normal. However, Clark Public Utilities said these outages aren’t due to the new development projects in the area, but rather accidents and maintenance. 

Near the end of May, Clark Public Utilities began doing maintenance and upgrading equipment at its Clark Substation on the intersection of Carty and Hillhurst roads. According to Manager of Systems Engineering at Clark Public Utilities Ryan Kerr, while maintenance was being done on the substation, Ridgefield residents got connected to other “feeder” power lines. However, because residents were on these feeder lines, if a power outage happened on a main line, they were more likely to be hit.

“On July 18, a vehicle hit a pole,” Kerr said. “This normally would have just been an interruption to about 350 non-Ridgefield residents. However, since the station was down (for maintenance), it resulted in 1,500 residents of Ridgefield residents losing power.” 

Accidents such as the July 18 outage are not too common throughout the year. In 2019, the utility had 71 vehicle-related interruptions. As of Aug. 4, there have been 49 in 2020. Kerr explained how most accidents only take out power for one to two residences. However, if the accident hits the system in the wrong place, it can cause a much larger outage. 

As far as outages go, Clark Public Utilities fares better than most of the nation in terms of outage duration and average number of interruptions. According to data provided by the American Public Power Association, in 2018 the national average for outage duration was 329 minutes (about five-and-a-half hours). In Washington state, the average is 259 minutes (just over four hours). For Clark Public Utilities, it was just 35 minutes. 

Each Clark Public Utilities customer can also expect to experience fewer outages than that of Washingtonians and Americans overall. Nationally, the average number of outages a customer experienced in 2018 was 1.65. In Washington state, it was 1.46. Clark Public Utilities customers averaged 0.43. “We’re pretty proud of that,” Kerr said. 

Kerr chalked the PUD’s positive outage numbers up to a combination of getting the lights back on quickly mixed with the maintenance and capital work they do to prevent future outages. 



“Our tree trimming efforts are pretty substantial. We go around the whole system on a three-year cycle and it pays off because tree incidents are the most common reason for an outage,” he said.

Along with maintenance and upgrades to the current Ridgefield substation, Clark Public Utilities also recently turned on its newest substation near La Center. The “Enterprise” substation will help supply power to the citizens of North Clark County while also adding the infrastructure needed for the area's expected growth. 

“Growth isn’t the current problem (for outages), however the PUD is expecting growth,” Kerr said. “We’re taking actions now to accommodate that. The people living here now will benefit by having cleaner power and fewer people will be affected (by outages).” 

The upgrades to the current station will also provide the tools the PUD needs for the expected growth in the area. Kerr said residents should expect faster outage response times with the new systems in place. “A lot of the time, we have a truck on the road before a customer calls in the outage.” 

However, power outages should still be reported and can be done online at clarkpublicutilities.com/outages-safety/report-an-outage-pre-form/ or by calling customer service at (360) 992-3000. 

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