SMUD addresses inspection and maintenance

SMUD’s downtown substation, Station A, experienced a fire on Tuesday, December 14, causing a power outage for about 1,300 customers. Most of downtown Sacramento is served by three networks from Station A.    

One of the networks suffered significant damage, and the other two were immediately de-energized to ensure public safety as they were examined and tested for fitness. Crews have worked 24/7 to restore power to about 750 residents and are continuing to make repairs to restore power to the remaining 550 customers.

Crews have made significant progress and will continue working through the day and night on the final steps. Due to the magnitude of the damage and the amount of equipment involved, as well as the tight quarters and confined workspace, we expect to return all customers to permanent power by Friday morning.

As with all of our distribution substations, SMUD performed inspections on the equipment inside Station A at least every two months, and no less than ten times each year. These visual inspections include identification of abnormalities, and any abnormal conditions identified are prioritized for corrective action. 

SMUD considers the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) general orders as the standard practice for our industry, and we voluntarily follow the same general order rules as the investor-owned utilities for our substation visual inspection program.   

Ongoing preventative maintenance activities are also regularly performed, including testing and inspection activities at intervals based on equipment condition, operating experience and industry practices. Key equipment inside Station A is inspected and tested at various intervals with some activities happening every three months and others annually or every 3, 5 or 10 years based on the specific asset.

Station A was never found to be a safety hazard. SMUD sought approval for a new substation, Station G located across the street, to safely accommodate the needs of a new, larger substation being built to accommodate new growth and grid needs.  While the cause of the fire is still unknown, SMUD acted quickly to de-energize the substation once the fire was discovered out of an abundance of caution and to ensure safety.   

Permit documents indicate that it was nearing the “end of its useful life,” which is not an indication of the health of the system. Useful life is fluid and can vary greatly dependent upon the care and maintenance of the site. It does not mean that the system was unsafe. SMUD’s inspection and maintenance program had shown no question about its health. 

Station A is planned to be transferred to a new Substation G beginning in October 2022, with a completion date of May 2023.

The Station A fire impacted the outdoor, external equipment and infrastructure only and not the historic building immediately adjacent to the infrastructure. The historic building is mostly empty and holds only control circuits and panels.

Since Tuesday, SMUD staff have been assisting commercial and residential customers who are still impacted by the fire-related outage in many ways, from booking and paying for hotel rooms to arranging transportation for our vulnerable customers and their pets, to assisting with generators.

Further updates will be provided as necessary. 

SMUD appreciates our customers’ patience as we make repairs and restore power and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.


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