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Silicon Valley power alert after substation damaged by gunshots

By Rory Carroll and Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A Silicon Valley power substation was damaged after shots were fired at it early on Tuesday morning, leading the California grid operator to call for electricity conservation in the face of what appeared to be an act of vandalism.

Gunfire was heard about 1:46 a.m. at the Metcalf substation on the southeast outskirts of San Jose, according to Kurtis Stenderup, a spokesman for the county sheriff. Law enforcement is treating it as an act of vandalism for now, he added.

A utility spokesman said cooling oil had leaked, and Stenderup said investigators could not yet access the crime scene while oil was cleaned up.

Electricity in the tech capital has not been interrupted so far, but that is a threat if residents and businesses do not conserve, said Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the state grid manager.

The Independent System Operator requested conservation in a "Flex Alert" for Northern California just before 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET) on Tuesday.

"This is a critical substation in Silicon Valley. Transmission capability in the area is much limited and that's why we are calling for conservation now," said Greenlee.

He did not know when the station might be back to normal but said that switching out transformers "takes a while." Other equipment at the substation might have to be taken out of service in the course of repair, exacerbating the problem, he said.

Jason King, a spokesman for PG&E Corp's Pacific Gas and Electric, said his company was still assessing the damage.

(Reporting By Rory Carroll and Peter Henderson; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Bernard Orr and Andrew Hay)

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