Power Grid Reports

I’m sure people have seen or heard the reports about our power grid.  It’s pretty much all over the news.  I know our government doesn’t like to say anything about anything if they can keep it to themselves.  By the time we do hear about it, it’s probably a lot worse than we actually think.

Last November, our area took part in a drill called GridEx II.  Many areas of the United States and Canada participated.   The main point seemed to be responses in reaction to a possible physical and/or cyber-attack on our nation’s power grid.   I, along with many others, ignored it.  A month ago I noticed the small sub-station near us is being overhauled and wondered why.  I remembered the grid exercise. I did what I always do and researched it.

I’m not usually a person who believes in conspiracy theories or alarmist things like a solar flare wiping out life as we know it.  I have nothing against people who are.  For all I know, they could be right.   However, the more I researched the power grid, the more my eyebrows raised towards my hairline, and I began to pay attention.

Our country’s power grid is composed of three basic sections:

Just a sidenote:  I find it amusing that Texas has its own.  They seem to do a lot of things on their own.  I’m thinking of moving there, but that’s because I have grandchildren living in that state.

Anyhow, back to the topic:

Conceivably, if one section begins to cascade the others can cut themselves off from it and preserve their own power – if they have time and realize what’s happening.

In 2003, the grid in parts of Canada and the Northeast went down.   More than 50 million people were without power, in August, due to a small cascade effect.   Can you picture New York City without power in Summer? It only took 6 seconds to happen and was caused by a software bug, human error, and decrepit equipment.   Thankfully, it didn’t last as long as it could have.

In 2005, the Energy Policy Act was an effort between the USA and Canada to prevent it from happening again.  However, the entire grid is being strained as more and more electrical items become popular like electric cars.

The Act doesn’t help outages due to severe weather such as Superstorm Sandy which broke several records and was reportedly the second worst storm in recent years; the first being Hurricane Katrina.  A year after, many are still trying to recover.  Some still don’t have their homes back.   The personal accounts I read after the storms were eye-opening to say the least, especially concerning the government response to both.  (They weren’t much help)

Whether you believe in man-made climate change or a naturally occurring weather cycle, the fact remains that the Earth’s weather is dancing all over the place and causing problems.   Or more to the point, humans are having problems with the weather.   The reported “polar vortex” strained the grids of many states.  Our area had to buy power from other states to keep people heated, and we’re in the North.  Cold is normal to us.  This type of cold use to be normal around here about 20 years ago, but warmed up over the years.  This lends credence to a weather cycle.   Southern states, who aren’t used to the cold, were ill-prepared and had their grids strained.  Texas temporarily lost a couple of plants.

The bottom line is our nation’s power grid is having some severe issues that many people aren’t even aware of and are unprepared for.  To ignore it is to bury your head in the sand.  To hope it goes away like a child does with a bad dream is foolish.  More and more government agencies like FEMA are encouraging people to prepare and not rely on government assistance during an emergency.  Let me stress this: if the grid goes down, you are on your own.

As evidence by the sub-station near me, companies are attempting to upgrade parts of it.  But how many are doing that?  I don’t know.   Can they upgrade fast enough to keep ahead of technology and the amount of electricity that is being used and will be needed?  I don’t know.  Given that they’ve had years to fix this, and haven’t, doesn’t inspire much hope.

I’m not even talking about computer glitches and human error.   It seems like having your own back-up solar or wind power would be wise, but now the electric companies are beginning to punish those that are “green” and almost “self-sufficient” by adding a fee to their monthly bill.   The numbers they quote don’t add up, btw.  Well, they will add up for those who use solar and wind power to off-set their electrical bills.  That’s another topic.

It’s not just our country.  Other areas have had issues: Kenya, India, and Venezuala just to name a few.   My other grandchildren live in Australia. What bothers me is that they all seem to be recent – within the last year or two.

In addition to the strained grid, we add… ta da! …local attacks on our system.   Then we are informed it will take just 9 – NINE – stations taken out to cascade the entire nationwide system. The attack on a California station was supposedly just “vandalism” that took out about 17 transformers.  The company managed to reroute the power to avoid an outage.  But what if they couldn’t?   If vandals could do that, how much more could an real terrorist strike do?  Some theorize it’s a “pre-attack” and/or an organized attack.   I can’t argue with them.   Silicone Valley is kind of an important place for our country.

In the past year, many states had problems.  California has done rolling black-outs for years.  Other states have initiated them off and on throughout the years.  Very few realize how close we were to losing several areas.  This past winter caused a lot of problems and we don’t know what summer will bring.

If our grid went down, by all reports I’ve read, it could take over a year to restore power, because of two main reasons: we don’t make our own equipment and by the time we have it shipped to us getting it around the country would take a long time.  We import much of our equipment from another country. Picture trying to get it to where it needs to be in ours without cars or trucks.  I honestly don’t know if I could survive a year with no grocery stores, no heat, no water (I’m on a well), no cars, etc.

Will it happen?  I don’t know.  We could go for years and never have a problem or it could go down tomorrow.  I can’t foresee the future.   Just based on recent events and government reports, in my mind, not at least considering and preparing for the possibility would be foolish.  I’m already partway there just because I live in a cold, northern climate where I lose power several times a year, so why not go for a year?

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