Illustration of a falling conductor protection system

Wildfire Safety Innovation: Cutting off Power to a Broken Power Line Before it Hits the Ground!

Many innovative ideas were shared yesterday and today at California’s first Wildfire Technology Innovation Summit in Sacramento, which brought together hundreds of legislative leaders, policymakers, scientists, fire officials, technology experts, and representatives from energy companies.

As part of the summit, leaders from our company were invited to share our experience of adopting and developing technology to mitigate wildfire risks. One of the innovations we are pioneering is an advanced falling conductor protection system, which can cut off power to a falling power line before it hits the ground, therefore helping to avoid a possible ignition.

Our engineers have been testing this technology in the field and are continuing to further enhance it for wider deployment in high threat fire districts in the back country.

How Does it Work?

Every day, our smart power grid is collecting and sending data at speeds faster than the blink of an eye. Everything from how much and when electricity is running through power lines, to when an outage occurs and more.

After extensive number crunching and testing, our team of engineers developed an algorithm that tells our electric system to immediately shut off power on a line if sensors detect that it’s broken. Below is a high-level scenario of how it works:

  1. A power line is broken, for example by strong winds, or by a vehicle hitting a pole;
  2. The damaged power line begins to fall to the ground (SDG&E engineers have determined that a power line takes an average of 1.37 seconds to hit the ground);
  3. The electric system detects a break and shuts off the power before the clock hits 1.37 seconds.

While that may seem simple enough, it took extensive laboratory and field testing to ensure this latest innovation would complement our existing layers of protection to guard against fires and other power line-related safety issues.  

Learn More

To see a video animation of how the falling conductor protection technology works, check out this video at the 1:46 mark. To learn more about SDG&E’s wildfire safety efforts, visit