PG&E installs temporary substation on Santa Rosa street

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A normally quiet east Santa Rosa street has been turned into a noisy power station to meet the growing power demand by large, air-conditioned homes and new development that threatened to overwhelm the area’s power grid.

Pacific Gas and & Electric set up a series of mobile power generators on Great Heron Drive in the Skyhawk neighborhood last week after power went out to 109 customers in the area Aug. 31, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said.

Worried by a forecast that called for triple-digit temperatures over the Labor Day weekend, the utility wanted to make sure it could keep the lights and air conditioners on in the area, she said. The mercury ended up hitting a new record of 110 degrees in Santa Rosa last Saturday.

The neighborhood of mostly larger single-family homes built in the 1980s and 1990s had an undersized electric infrastructure that was stressed when people turned on their central air conditioners.

“It’s a smaller line and it just wasn’t enough capacity for that neighborhood,” Contreras said.

New homes in the area added to the electrical demand, she said. Construction on 35 new luxury homes began last year off Sunhawk Drive in a subdivision of $1 million homes, called The Reserves at Skyhawk.

The utility brought in two 2 MW generators on Aug. 31 to boost power in the neighborhood over the three-day holiday weekend, she said. It initially planned to remove them last Monday.

But the utility instead opted to add a third generator on Monday and continued to operate the mini-substation for the rest of the week, allowing it to make needed upgrades to the area’s grid, she said. The cluster of generators required the street to the closed.

The incessant din of the three truck-sized generators bugged some neighbors.

“It’s kind of annoying,” said Darcie Dahl, a 33-year-old mother who lives on Twilight Place immediately beside the generators. “I definitely won’t miss it when it’s gone.”

Workers installed nine replacement poles, seven new transformers and 1,500 feet of more robust power lines to boost the capacity of the system, which supplies 870 homes in the area.

The diesel generators have been running 24-7, but are scheduled to be turned off at 3 a.m. Saturday as the power is switched back to the upgraded grid, Contreras said. The power should be out for about an hour during the switch. Crews will then finish up their work and should be cleared out by Sunday, she said.

Homeowners who were most impacted by the noisy generators, which are mounted on trailers parked on the closed residential street, were offered the chance to be put up in hotels, she said.

About four people took advantage of the offer, she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or On Twitter @srcitybeat.

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