Is the Grid Really Unreliable?
Chiefly, most of those concerned with preparedness don’t want to live off grid, but fear that they may have to with the state of decay of the North American Power Grid. There is a compelling case for investing in power outage contingencies, since a substantial risk of outages is growing annually.
Many in preparedness do not think the grid has become totally unreliable at this time, but they say that it’s getting less and less reliable each year.
Some questions recently we asked: Does the question “Is the Grid Really Unreliable?” have a solid basis in fact? The answer, scrutinized from whichever direction, by any authority in the field: Yes.
Is the state of the Grid likely to get worse?
The posed questions so far address solely outages caused for reasons under the control of the companies that collectively run the bulk power systems. Examples include failures due to human error, component failure, and inadequate system resources and “smartness” to prevent a small outage from cascading into a big one.
Most data collected leaves out a substantial proportion of outages that fall into the AOG or acts of God — those caused by external events that could not be controlled, like hurricanes.
Because of how reliably data is collected, excluding acts of God skews our conclusions toward understating the current problem. Take the example of a heavy rain storm with high but not extraordinary (50 mph) winds. Most of the outages from such storms are due to tree branches falling on power lines, ice buildup on power lines, or even decaying power poles.
Many of such failures are avoidable, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. They took Pacific Gas and Electric to task a few years ago, compelling PG&E to hire more personnel to trim trees that posed an obviously high risk to power lines.
Nonetheless, failures from natural disasters — preventable or not — are not included here in our definition of “outage”.
So is it a wise decision to invest in power outage contingencies?
Aging power grid on overload as U.S. demands more electricity
By Ashley Halsey III, The Washington Post
They began to bend in the roaring wind, then their steel girders snapped like twigs, the towers toppled and the lights went out.Minutes before the windstorm arrived to pummel the Washington area on June 29, it swept east through West Virginia, crushing three electrical transmission towers that are a tiny part of an intricate power grid that’s supposed to keep the lights on in America.
The term “grid” suggests a certain uniformity to the power system’s structure, but the network more closely resembles a patchwork quilt stitched together to cover a rapidly expanding nation.
The United States doesn’t yet face the critical shortage of power that has left more than 600 million people in India without electricity this weekBut the U.S. grid is aging and stretched to capacity. More often the victim of decrepitude than the forces of nature, it is beginning to falter. Experts fear failures that caused blackouts in New York, Boston and San Diego may become more common as the voracious demand for power continues to grow. They say it will take a multibillion-dollar investment to avoid them.“I like to think of our grid much like a water system, and basically all of our pipes are at full pressure now,” said Otto J. Lynch, vice president of Wisconsin-based Power Line Systems, “and if one of our pipes bursts and we have to shut off that line, that just increases the pressure on our remaining pipes until another one bursts, and next thing you know, we’re in a catastrophic run and we have to shut the whole water system down.”India’s blackout was a power generation problem: It is saddled with aging coal power plants and facing resistance to new nuclear plants. This week, several plants closed suddenly and the lights went out. Although the United States will need more power plants to meet the demands of a growing population, the most immediate threat is that the delivery system will continue to fail.The huge steel towers whose power cables crisscross the country — and the transmission stations they feed — are the pipes of that system. It’s not easy to store electricity for very long, and most of it is used within a second of being produced. At the push of a button, the grid routes power where it’s needed, from state to state or region to region. It is supposed to sidestep bottlenecks or hiccups that might slow the flow.Towers are designed to withstand winds far stronger than the almost 70 mph blasts that struck Ritchie County, W.Va. But three towers in a row running parallel to Route 50 north of Ellenboro collapsed, early victims of a storm that would devastate power delivery throughout the Mid-Atlantic.“A fourth tower didn’t come down but had to be removed because it was pulled off kilter,” said Todd Meyers, spokesman for FirstEnergy, a power company that supplies electricity to five states, including Maryland. “I don’t remember a time when this many came down. This is an unusual occurrence.”Engineers are trying to figure out why the 40-year-old towers collapsed in a freak storm — whether through corrosion, foundation cracks or flying debris. But there have long been warnings that local systems, which began linking to one another in the 1920s, need an expensive overhaul.MORE LINKS:http://www.americainfra.com/news/fixing-the-us-power-grid/