Building community resilience during wildfire season

Wildfire is a key part of California’s landscape and is essential for the viability of many ecosystems native to the state. However, in recent years, climate change has created longer, hotter and drier seasons in California, causing increasing frequency and severity of wildfires, which often result in devastating loss of life and property.  

To mitigate wildfires and protect public safety, California Public Utilities Commission authorized electric utility providers to shut off electric power at certain times if weather and fuel conditions increase the risk of equipment failure and therefore wildfire.  

During these shutdowns, telecommunications providers are required to provide backup power in order for their networks and communications to remain up and running. This ensures that individuals and organizations have access to vital emergency services, 911 access, high speed data, news and more. In recent years, this required backup power time increased from 8 hours to 72 hours, requiring telecommunications companies to find new ways to generate power to keep communications and networks up and running when the power is shut off. 

Deisel generators have been the standard solution, but often run their own risk of starting wildfires, and can be difficult to maintain. They also release exhaust gases, including nitrogen oxide and potentially carcinogenic particulate matter, not to mention emitting CO2 which contributes to climate change, one of the reasons they are needed in the first place. So, when telecommunications providers across the state of California needed a smarter solution, they turned to EnerSys® to solve the problem in a safe, healthy and reliable way.  

To date, EnerSys batteries are powering over 4,500 power modules in neighborhoods across California to support communications networks regardless of if grid power goes out. EnerSys was uniquely qualified to design, build and install these integrated systems with intelligent reliable energy storage for each specific use case. EnerSys teams work with the telecommunications providers to assess the power load needs at each site and customize which battery should be utilized at each site. They work with local and state governments as well to receive all the permits needed for each site to provide the best, custom option for each community.  

“This is a project we are so incredibly proud of,” said Drew Zogby, President of Energy Systems Global at EnerSys. “These major national telecommunications providers turned to EnerSys and knew that we could get the job done, on time and done right.”

“The solution we’re providing is not only supporting essential communications in times of need, but it’s doing it in a way that make our communities better, safer, and less at risk from wildfires,” said John Hewitt, Vice President Broadband Communications at EnerSys Energy Systems Global. 

Toby Peck, Sr. Director of Broadband Product Management, is leading the implementation work for this project, with a project completion date estimated in 2024. Once complete, EnerSys® batteries are set to power over 6,000 modules in neighborhoods across California. By replacing diesel generators in these locations, EnerSys is helping save over 1,000 metric tons of CO2e annually.* This is equivalent to taking 217 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles off the road each year.** 

“This is great news for California,” said Toby. “But we’re also excited to scope out other opportunities where this technology can be used in place of diesel generators to improve the resiliency of critical communications networks. We have the chance to revolutionize the world of emergency response and make it cleaner and safer for everyone.”  

From left to right: Frank Park, Service Operations Manager; Alvaro Gandara Astray, Project Manager Service II; Chuck Chapman, Senior Technical Sales Representative; Tammy Look, Health & Safety Manager; and Tony Castro, Technical Sales Representative.