Archive for July, 2007

Unreliable electricity in the birthplace of Silicon Valley

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Yesterday, Sunday July 22, there was yet another major electrical outage in the California Avenue District of Palo Alto. Similar to the one six weeks ago, this impacted a major service area and was of extensive duration.

Both outages caused losses to businesses, including my own, which has a server co-located at the Fiber Internet Center (FIC) on Park Boulevard, within the affected district. Even with very large and expensive Uninterruptible Power Systems, it has not been possible for FIC to keep my equipment in service during these outages.

For many years, I had my business office on California Avenue, and can personally attest to the dreadful state of utilities in this area. Not only has electric service been persistently unreliable, but customer service had been consistently unprofessional, with repeated outages due to lack of coordination during replacement of meters (several times) and service upgrades (to other unrelated customers). Coupled with the dismal telecom infrastructure in this business district, it was an easy decision to relocate my business out of this district.

As a professional in the energy business, I am distressed at the very poor performance of the Utility Department. Without a doubt much of the problem is due to aging infrastructure, but the results are plainly unacceptable in the birthplace of Silicon Valley. I’m pretty sure that Google would not have rented the Agilent building with the expectation of third-world power quality. Moreover, it would be foolhardy to locate the new Police Department building in this area, given the evident unsuitability of the electrical utility infrastrurcture to support critical services.

I urge the City Council request an immediate report from the Director of Utilities on the state of the infrastructure in the California Avenue District, along with an action plan to improve maintenance, and a capital improvement plan to upgrade this area BEFORE approval of any significant new electrical loads, like the new police building.