The Power Grid/Wildfire Nexus: Using GIS and Satellite Remote Sensing to Identify Vulnerabilities
The effects of wildfire on the power grid are a recurring concern for utility companies who need reliable information about where to prioritize infrastructure hardening. Though there are existing data layers that provide measures of burn probability, these models predominately consider long-term climate variables, which are not helpful when analyzing current season trends. Utility companies need data that are temporally and locally relevant. To determine the primary drivers of burn probability relative to power grid vulnerability, this study assessed potential wildfire drivers that are both readily accessible and regularly updated. Two study areas in Idaho, USA with contrasting burn probabilities were compared. Wildfire drivers were obtained and differentiated between the study areas across the 2018–2021 growing seasons. This study determined that mean wind speed, cumulative growing season precipitation, and the mean Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for an area of interest may be reliable indicators of burn probability on a temporally relevant scale. This assessment demonstrates a method and variables that may be utilized by municipal electric utilities, electric cooperatives, and other power utilities to determine where to harden power grid infrastructure within wildfire-prone areas.