Residents that live in the Rollingwood area have experienced a prolonged streetlight outage since mid-December 2021. The issue is connected to a regulated output (RO) electrical circuit, which operates similar to older holiday lights…if one light fails, all other lights after the failed light no longer work. Troubleshooting began in mid-December 2021 when the outage first occurred. City staff are continuing to work closely with the City’s electrical contractor and PG&E to ensure proper repair and the safe deenergizing and re-energizing of the system. As is common with the outdated RO circuit failures, the issues are not easy to fix and the parts are not readily available. Additionally, the Rollingwood section of the City’s streetlight network dates back to the 1950’s and needs to be fully renovated, not just repaired. More on that later in this article.
On January 5, 2022, PG&E made repairs to the RO system. The system was tested during daylight hours and the streetlights turned on. No issues were observed. The system was reset so that the streetlights would automatically turn on later that night at dusk.
Later that night, City staff were on site and waited for the system to power up. 60 lights turned on, but 34 did not. Staff found two locations where the electrical system failed. PG&E was called to de-energize the system. While City staff were waiting for PG&E, the system failed in another location, shutting off an additional 52 lights.
Damage at the 3 locations where failures were observed have since been investigated and it was determined that all three, like the other two failures in December 2021, were at the splices (wire connections) located at the base of the poles.
Given the age of the infrastructure and the current condition of the electrical wires, on January 6, the City determined that the best course of action was to conduct a detailed examination of each of the 95 streetlights and repair all splices and related wiring at the base of every pole. Additionally, many of the older poles will need to be unbolted and lifted up, and some locations will require a new pole to be installed. Pole replacements will be made subject to the poles the City has in stock and the ability to procure new ones (which is limited due to supply chain issues).
The City's contractor has begun the repairs and, at the time that this article was published (1/24/22), the work is approximately 50% complete. This work is estimated to be finished within the next 3 weeks and will be followed by a test of the system.
For background, approximately 25% of the City’s streetlights are on a Regulated Output (RO) circuit, which means that a series of streetlights share a single power source. The City developed an estimate to replace all streetlights on RO circuits back in 2016. The cost at that time was $4M. The project was not pursued then and at other times in the recent past when RO circuits failed, due to a lack of available funds. Given the results of the investigations into the current outage, staff is working to advance a CIP project and will go before the City Council in March for design funding to replace all RO circuits citywide.
In the meantime, San Bruno Police Department is scheduled to increase patrols of the neighborhood during the outage. We appreciate your patience while the situation is being resolved.