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Re: East Coast outage?
- From: JC Dill
- Date: Fri Aug 15 16:16:05 2003
At 08:13 PM 8/14/2003, David Lesher wrote:
The power industry designs a grid that runs so close to capacity that if^W
when something big fails, the whole grid shuts down in a cascade. They
Then run parts at 105-110% and it gets really hard.
"What happens if <$big_num_watts> power plant suddenly spikes"?
"We have a cascade failure thru the whole grid as switches overload and
shut off. This causes blackouts over a wide area, and it takes many hours
to restore electrical service. Also, many outlying TelCo facilities have
battery backup power that will be exhausted before we can restore power to
them, and there aren't enough gen sets around to keep them all running when
their batteries die. So TelCo service (and by extension, also Internet
service) will fail in many areas as a result of the widespread electrical
"How often can we expect this to occur?"
"Oh, once every decade or so, on one of the major grids. It usually
happens when electric use is at peak demand, late afternoon during the
"Oh. Ok then. Carry on."
"We're a superpower with a third-world grid. We need a new grid," New
Mexico Gov. and former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told the CNN
television network. "The problem is that nobody is building enough
What's the point in having DOE and FERC regulation and oversight if they
just rubber-stamp this type of design and endorse running at over-capacity
on a routine basis? What happened to designing something so that it
doesn't break when one big part fails, designing it so that switches don't
get overloaded when a nearby plant spikes and goes off the grid? Is it
*that* hard/expensive to have switching plants sufficiently resilient, with
the extra capacity that can handle a *predictable and expected* event?
In California we design our systems to survive major earthquakes (e.g 7.x),
even though they only happen once every 10-20 years, and then only affect a
relatively small portion (compared to the size of power grids) of the
state. When we discover that the engineering isn't resilient enough (e.g.
when the Cypress structure collapsed and a piece of the SF Bay Bridge fell
during the Loma Prieta quake in 1989), we find out what went wrong and FIX
it, not just in the one inadequately designed structure or system, but
statewide, system-wide. (We have rebuilt a lot of bridges in the last 14
years!) Yet we keep on seeing electrical switches that can't handle the
load when a nearby plant spikes or goes off the grid, causing cascade
failures. It is predictable and it has been happening for at least 40
years! Don't they notice that their design is inadequate and FIX
it??? Quoting the above article again:
"According to the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto,
California, U.S. power demand has surged 30 percent in the last decade,
while transmission capacity grew a mere 15 percent. "
They not only don't fix it, they let it get worse. sigh...
Well, at least we now have a great argument against regulation when they
try to create a Department of the Internet to oversee the "Internet industry".