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Monday, July 25, 2011

The New England Power Grid almost came down

We almost lost the grid. The Dig Safe program keeps track of all the buried power lines. Before digging, it’s only prudent to check with them first. Dig Safe alerted a construction company to buried lines, but missed the fact that some pieces of key equipment was buried a lot closer to the surface.

How close did we come to losing the grid? The excavator actually hit the equipment and put a dent in it. The operator was alert enough to notice something wasn’t quite right. He shut down the operation.

Had the equipment been destroyed, it would have become a Homeland Security issue. The National Guard would have cordoned off the construction site. All tools and equipment would have been left behind. The company responsible would have been shut down. That’s how these things are handled these days.

The thing that impressed me what how fragile the grid is. There’s very little slack in the system. Destroying a small key part can cause cascading failures that radiate out a good ways.

People take power for granted, with no idea how fragile the whole system is. The New England grid had a close call, and hardly anyone knows about it. The people involved don’t want the details to come out, and I can respect that. Jobs are on the line here.

People really should give some thought on how they’d get by without the grid. Sooner or later, odds are the power will go down, and maybe for a long time.



  1. Wow so true,my county lost power for 3 hrs during the hottest day last week.I was working so it made little difference to me.No explanation either as why power went down.2 counties for 3 hrs TOO many a/c's on at once?Sure need to plan for it!


  2. I'm lucky I know how to cook on a hearth. 'Course it wouldn't be nice in the summer.

  3. Your last paragraph said it all...

  4. An unlucky critter could take out the Texas grid (separate from the rest) right now. A raccoon crawled into a 480 volt load center at the power plant I worked at, shorted two phases, and damn nearly took down half the plant. The plant next door to my work has been running full bore from sunup to sundown, even their old inefficient boiler and steam turbine. I haven't looked at the market clearing price for juice lately, but if they're running that old unit, it's high.

    Then there's the grid itself, which has not been upgraded much over the years. All those high lines are very vulnerable, and they carry a lot of juice. A LOT of juice...