Valley Public Radio is a critical service for tens of thousands of local residents, especially in the case of an emergency, when internet and cellular communications may be disrupted. But while the station has backup generators at its two transmitter sites (Round Mountain near Bakersfield, and Meadow Lakes near Auberry) the station does not have a backup generator for its Clovis broadcast center, where a potential electricity outage would take both stations off the air. Now, with the threat of planned power shutoffs by PG&E to reduce wildfire risks, the need for a backup power source is more important than ever.
To address this issue the station has a plan to install a 75 kW natural gas generator at the studio site. Current estimates place the cost of the generator, transfer switch, associated supplies and installation at $56,000. And thanks to the Caglia family of Fresno, we have received a pledge of $28,000 to cover half of the cost of this project, if we can raise the rest from the community.
Your contribution this summer to this special capital project will help us meet this matching gift and ensure that FM89 stays on the air, regardless of the conditions. And while a major outage has yet to hit our studio complex, and take us offline, the risk is present and growing. It’s important that we proceed on this project now for several reasons.
Reason #1: PG&E Power Shutdowns Are Looming
Following recent devastating wildfires that were at least in part caused by electrical equipment owned by PG&E, the utility has advised us that we should be prepared for an outage as part of its Public Safety Power Shutoff Program. While our station is not in a zone considered at high risk for a wildfire, major transmission lines that serve our area run through wildfire zones in the Sierra, with areas of high tree mortality. PG&E wrote us the following in a letter dated May 31, 2019:
“Your power may be shut off even if you do not live in an area experiencing high winds or other extreme weather conditions. This is done for the safety of all communities and customers.” – PG&E
A natural gas backup generator at the Valley Public Radio Broadcast Center will keep the station on the air, even if PG&E intentionally depowers service in our area due to wildfire conditions.
Reason #2: Public Safety
As of January 1, 2019, under a plan approved by the California Office of Emergency Services, Valley Public Radio is now serving as a vital link in the local emergency alert network. KVPR 89.3 is now one of two local stations that ALL other broadcasters in a six county region rely on to receive Emergency Alert messages. Those stations monitor KVPR’s signal and they will automatically relay the emergency alerts we air on their own their broadcast channels. But if KVPR is off the air due to a power outage, those stations may not be able to alert THEIR listeners and viewers of an emergency. In the event of a wildfire, or other evacuations these messages are essential to public safety, as other forms of communication like cellphones and internet service may be inaccessible.
Reason #3: Planned Outages are Expensive
It’s not just wildfire conditions, or equipment failures that cause electrical outages. Sometimes PG&E equipment requires maintenance which necessitates a planned outage. In other cases, new construction nearby can result in a planned outage while the new building is brought online. In the past, we have rented portable backup generators to stay on-air during planned outages, but those temporary installations are prohibitively expensive, especially when compared with the cost of a permanent solution.
Reason #4: You Rely on Valley Public Radio
Listeners like you depend on Valley Public Radio - rain or shine, around the clock, regardless of the conditions. We’re there for you with news, music and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, both on-air and online. The station has invested millions in our broadcast infrastructure over the last 10 years, and has a state-of-the-art broadcast center. However, the reliability of our electricity service remains our Achilles’ heel and threatens to compromise the rest of our service to the community.
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
Didn’t we already fund a backup generator?
In 2013, the station raised over $31,000 from south valley listeners to support the installation of a backup generator at the transmitter site for KPRX 89.1 at Round Mountain near Bakersfield. That project has helped us improve the reliability of our service in Kern County, as power outages in the remote Round Mountain area are commonplace. However, if our studio in Clovis loses power, KPRX would be left broadcasting silence. Our current project requires a larger generator, hence the additional cost compared to 2013.
Why wasn’t this a part of the construction of your new building?
We had planned to have a backup generator at the new broadcast center from the beginning. However, in order to keep costs and debt down to a reasonable level, several items were removed from the initial build-out, and saved as projects for a later date, including the backup generator. However, we did take important steps to make the addition of a generator possible: our building was designed with a secure site for a generator, adjacent to existing electrical panels. We also already have in place a poured concrete pad for a generator, as well as installed underground conduit and natural gas plumbing to service a generator.
Help us complete this project and match our existing $28,000 pledge. You’ll be helping to keep Valley Public Radio on the air regardless of the conditions. It’s an investment in both our radio station, and in the safety of our valley communities.
Total project estimate: $56,000
Current pledges: $41,000
For more information about how you can help, please contact:
President and General Manager
Valley Public Radio
559-862-2481 :: firstname.lastname@example.org