Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Brazil is experiencing rolling blackouts. The best thing that can be said of rolling blackouts is that they are better than unplanned catastrophic grid failure. At least it gives people a chance to prepare for the inconvenience.
Americans behave like that won't happen here, but the US is not immune. In fact, the US grid system is old and overburdened even during normal times. Brazil's problems are worsened by a heat wave. Water levels in their hydroelectric dams are low at the same time air conditioning demands are high. Extreme weather could affect the US too. Hot weather is a risk, but winter causes plenty of power outages.
The time to prepare for outages is before they happen. After a major ice storm I remember people driving hundreds of miles and paying top dollar for generators. Most people then forget they ever had a problem. Either the generators sit and rust or are sold for pennies on the dollar.
The smart thing is to prepare ahead of time. Personally I prefer small solar electric systems to generators, but the main thing is to have some sort of backup system. Take a good hard look at your needs. Does anyone in your family have special medical requirements? Medication need refrigeration? Medical devices need electric power? Does someone in your family require a climate controlled room to live in?
I suffer from sleep apnea and need a cpap for a good nights sleep. While going a few nights without it won't kill me, the lack of proper rest takes its toll. This winter we had power outages caused by wind storms so I was glad to have backup solar electric power. Dealing with the aftermath of a storm was much easier after getting a good night's sleep. Now that I'm on the road my van has a solar electric system that powers my cpap and other electric needs.
Don't expect the grid to get the investment it needs. Rolling blackouts could become normal, even in technologically advanced countries. Now's the time to prepare. Do you have medical needs? Can you cook without electricity? Store food without electricity? How about water? Is your house supplied by a well pump? Perhaps you rely on municipal water. Can they supply your water during an extended power outage?
It doesn't take a very big backup electrical system to maintain a good quality of life. Now the problem is happening in Brazil, but no country is immune from power disruption.