You might have noticed the construction going on in the area between the Activity Center and the Education Building, as well as the parking spaces occupied by materials and equipment. This was not a planned project, but an urgent response to a critical PG&E transformer failure.
On Thursday night, March 22, the transformer started to smoke. The fire department was called and both buildings were evacuated over concern that the transformer might explode. Smoke was also discovered to be coming from the main panel in the Activity Center. PG&E’s transformer had malfunctioned and sent high voltage into our main electrical panel in the Activity Center. The fire department kept people out of the area until PG&E turned off the power. An estimated 4,200 PG&E customers were also without power for several hours. With the power off and the smoke cleared, the fire department allowed us back inside to start assessing the damage. Richard Carr from Carr Electric, who is one of our church members, and a technician from the company who installed the solar generation system, SEL, were on site to help with that assessment.
God was watching over our church as no one was injured, and no fire occurred. During the night, PG&E removed the old transformer and installed a new one. They made a valiant effort to pull new conductors and restore power to our main panel, but they quickly determined that the stray current had damaged the underground conduits that brought the cables into the building. This left the Activity Center and the Education Building without PG&E power, and without any expectation of it being restored any time soon. Fortunately, the sanctuary and the church office are on a different transformer and were not affected by this incident.
The reason most of our church family had no idea of the severity of the problem was that SEL made arrangements to connect power from a generator through one of the solar disconnects, and had temporary power restored by 8:00 am the next morning. To accomplish this, with our solar panels off-line, a large diesel powered generator was rented and connected to a component of the solar generating system.
During the next weeks, we worked with Carr Electric to create the most cost-effective design to get PG&E approvals, acquire building permits from the city, and get our power restored. As more details were uncovered, the design continued to be adjusted. We also filed a claim with our property insurance company to pay for the costly damages.
In addition to the relocation of PG&E’s new transformer, the final revision included a new exterior main panel and a new distribution panel inside the Activity Center. By the third week, we had received the necessary permits, ordered replacement equipment, and we were able to start digging. Without going into the complications of the specifics, on Saturday night, April 21, 30 days after the transformer failure, we were able to turn off the generator and run on PG&E power. It was my privilege to turn off the big, expensive generator, and on Monday morning it was hitched up and sent it on its way back to the rental company.
The rest of the panel work was completed during the week of April 23rd, so the only things remaining for us to get back to normal are the reconnection of the solar panels and a few cosmetic details. We hope to have this completed soon, so please continue to excuse our dust. Please continue to pray for the quick payment of our insurance claim. In every construction project, the end result is worth the temporary inconvenience. The new electric infrastructure is up to current city codes and should last for many years to come.
In His service,
Tim Ankcorn, Executive Director of Operations