Tags: Blackout | India | power | us

Washington Post: Blackouts Like India’s Could Become Common in US

By    |   Thursday, 02 August 2012 01:21 PM

An aging and overtaxed U.S. power grid could mean blackouts will become more common, according to The Washington Post.

As the electrical system ages, it becomes more vulnerable to storms and other natural disasters. Plus, the grid is under increasing strain from growing electricity use, as people use more computers and charge their cell phones and other devices.

If transmission lines or stations in one area break down, other parts of the grid assume a greater burden and may, in turn, break down, creating a cascading disaster that threatens the entire system, The Post explains.

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Half of India, more than 600 million people, lost power when the country’s grid collapsed earlier this week. Although a break down of that magnitude isn’t immediately likely in this country, experts warn blackouts and brownouts would become more common here without a substantial upgrade of our electrical grid, according to The Post.

And that would be expensive. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that an extra $107 billion is needed by 2020 to keep the grid running.

“The aging of equipment explains some of the equipment failures that lead to intermittent failures in power quality and availability,” the ASCE warned in a recent report. “The capacity of equipment explains why there are some bottlenecks in the grid that can also lead to brownouts and occasional blackouts.”

New York, Boston and San Diego all experienced recent blackouts, which experts fear will become more common.

In Boston, a connection between a power line and a transformer failed, shooting sparks and causing a fire. Much of downtown Boston and nearby neighborhoods lost power.

When workers were fixing equipment at a utility switchyard in Arizona, a mishap knocked out power for much of southern California, according to The Post. In the largest power outage in California history, schools closed, traffic lights went out and gridlock followed. And people were in elevators.

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Experts say the blackout in India shows how vulnerable grids are, according to Bloomberg.

“We’re looking at it in depth,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff tells Bloomberg. “We are very concerned about it, we want to see, if we can, what has been the reason for those events occurring, whether there’s any issues that we may learn from them, that relate to our grid.”

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Thursday, 02 August 2012 01:21 PM
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