Storm after storm has rolled into Kitsap County this fall, knocking out electricity each time to hundreds, if not thousands of people.
Yet I struggle to recall a single time that my Bremerton home’s lost power. And I’ve heard from others, too, that while the rest of the county’s sans electricity, the lights remain on in Bremerton.
That got me curious, so I called Tom Brobst, Puget Sound Energy‘s municipal liaison manager. Tom knows Kitsap County’s electricity grid as well as anyone. There’s a variety of reasons, he told me, but the biggest one — and the most obvious — is trees.
“Bremerton is urban,” Brobst said. “It doesn’t have the amount of trees that you have in say, Hansville or Holly.”
Trees cause so many more outages than anything else that a special kind of power line — built with a special coating on it so the wires continue to work even when impact — was developed, he said.
The other main reason that Bremerton rarely loses power is that the power grid here is full of “loops” that provide backup even when one line goes down.
“If there is a power outage, we have a grid (in Bremerton) that’s capable of picking up areas in the core,” he said.
Here’s an example: if you live on a street in the city with a downed line, electricity will divert from another line nearby to restore power at your home. However, if you live out in the sticks, where the one line on the street goes down, there’s no other line beyond it that will feed you backup power.
Bremerton also benefits from having Puget Sound Energy’s high transmission lines — the most powerful in the system, as you might have guessed — go right through the city. Those aren’t as likely to be lost to an outage.
The city’s age and some of its properties probably help too. For instance, Harrison Medical Center is served by two substations. Substations are critical in that they reduce the amount of power down to more bitesized chunks as it heads for neighborhood lines. But substations can only handle so many customers — hence Bainbridge’s challenges as residents there chose conservation over a new substation a few years back. Having two nearby ensures power won’t go out as often. (Side note: Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton actually buys its own power and can generate it on its own, too.)
So, while the rest of the county’s residents might worry about whether they’ll have hot water for a shower or be able to watch TV during the next storm, rest assured, Bremerton. (Aaaaand, I’m knocking on wood right now.)