June 28, 2017

Our Endangered Electrical Infrastructure

Our Endangered Electrical Infrastructure

Every year hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of people go without power for a variety of reasons. It can sometimes be from storm damage, as was the case in 2003, during the worst blackout in U.S. history; power lines were taken down by trees, which led to a cascading failure. This left an estimated 55 million people without power, as well as an estimated 6 billion dollar business loss. It can also be caused from routine operation of changing out a piece of faulty equipment, which led to a blackout, leaving 7 million people in the dark.

Why is there such a propensity for failure? There are multiple reasons. Much of our electric grid is fifty years old or older, running on parts with a thirty to thirty five year life expectancy. There are power plants that cost millions of dollars to build and no one inside America even builds them anymore. Another reason is, there are interlinked dependencies that no one seems to understand. In both of the blackouts that I linked above, there was a failure that shouldn’t have bled into others, but did.

Another reason is our insatiable appetite for electricity and the things it powers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from an eco-hippie, but there is a ton of juice being used to power “fluff”, even when it is not on. It seems like every year there are rolling brownouts due to supply not meeting demand.

The article U.S. Electric Grid Is Reaching the End Game goes into great detail on the problems of our failing infrastructure. If you’re interested in more information, it is worth the read.
What are the dangers?

As I mentioned above, weather is a cause; in fact it’s probably the biggest cause. I wrote an article on another threat called EMP’s, Solar Flares and CME’s. I explain what these events are and how much of a danger I think they actually are. There are always things getting old and breaking down, as commented on in Recent Blackout Highlights Nation’s Aging Electricity Grid and in Aging Gas Pipes at Risk of Erupting Nationwide.

Another threat I think is very real is from other countries hacking into our grid. China and Russia hack into US power grid This doesn’t have to do with our electrical grid, but most recently Foreign hackers targeted U.S. water plant in apparent malicious cyber attack.
What Can We Do?

We can take responsibility for what we use and how much we use it. I’m not saying unplug everything that isn’t in use, though for some items that might not be a bad idea. Turning off lights that aren’t in use, or turning the PC off if it’s not going to be used for an extended period can’t hurt. Don’t tell me about the hibernate feature; I’m pretty sure the devil invented that right after software user agreements and hold music.

We can also provide some of our own electricity at whatever level we can afford. If that’s a full scale solar panel system, wind turbine or a portable generator to provide off grid electricity, so be it. I can’t afford to do a full scale solar panel system, but I have thought about getting a small panel and battery to learn the ropes and scale up slowly.

If you have any other ideas that we can do, please post them in the comments.

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  1. A small solar panel and battery backup is a good idea but trying to run a whole house on solar is economicaly impracticle. I have run the numbers and the cost of the system where the solar panels have a design life of 15 to 20 years at best and the batteries have a life of 7 to 10 make it so lopsided investment for the benefit gained. Plus you have to be chained to maintainence of the batteries and lifestyle of constantly shutting things off and chasing ghost losses. It is better to live like the amish with kerosene refrigerators and lamps or have the capability to anyway.

    • Is there any information to be found on the kerosene refrigerator? What a great idea. I was looking at how my forefathers the appalachian people survived they used cold water springs to save food.

  2. I’m set up with a propane generator, and will be purchasing a modest solar system in the near future. Propane is a lot more stable than gas, stores longer, runs cleaner, and the generators cost just a bit more. I also have LPG as a back up for cooking, too, so it serves two purposes. We’re considering a LPG refrigerator, too, since keeping many things cold can be essential such as leftovers, etc.

    We have long burning candles, and flashlights with the CR123 batteries that tend to last a long time.

    We anticipate using the generator more as we eat down the contents of the chest freezer and the refrigerator, and after that, just minimally from time to time.

  3. I have also checked solar power and lt was not practical. We have a natural gas whole house generator and several options for cooking. I hope this will work as long nothing happens to natural gas.

  4. Iran wants to hit us with an EMP attack. Such an attack would not only take out our grid, but fry ALL of your electronics as well. Having solar panels and generators will have done you no good unless you keep them protected in a Faraday cage. There are plenty of websites that show you how to build them. Prepare for the worst, pray for the best.

  5. Another great topic sir. I too have looked into solar panels. Here in Florida we have an abundance of sun so they are doable. The cost is still horrific (for me anyway). A system that will generate half of my yearly needs would cost 15,000-18,000 dollars. That figure is with me and my solar-power-contractor-friend doing it ourselves.

    I could sell some stock and get the system but the more that people do this, the less power will be needed by our power company, therefore their profits are cut and they end up raising our prices to compensate. Its already happening here with the cutbacks people are making, Lakeland Electric is contemplating raising base rates to help out with their lost profits. Its very aggravating to say the least.

    So, I will make the switch when I can afford to buy a system that will provide 100% of the power I need. You can eliminate the need for batteries by staying “on grid” and just sell the power you make back to them. They have to buy it back at the same rate in which they sold it.

    I would love to be energy independent, but I just cant justify/afford it at this time. Bummer…

    sorry for the long post. Kevin.

  6. Excellent food for thought and a great conversation starter.

    Americans are so dependent on electricity that it will be the #1 target of those that aim to destroy us. EMP? Read “1 second after” and you’ll get an understanding of how dependent we really are. 100,000,000 dead inside of a year.

    We must all be prepared for the grid going down. CNG/Propane conversions for regular generators are reasonably inexpensive and as stated Propane is very stable. Large tanks can be buried and are thus very safe and concealed.

    Wind generators up on a roof work when there is sufficient wind. The limiting factor with both wind and solar, as stated above, is storage batteries.

    There is someone out there working on a system that will free us.

  7. I am looking at building a house in the near future and had looked into the idea of solar panels. Where I live, there are some nice tax breaks for solar and where I would be building a house I would have excellent exposure to the sun. Based on what I am reading it seems that a lot of you are not very keen on solar. Should I reconsider? Does anyone have any links or information I could read that maybe I have overlooked? Thanks!

  8. Chris Ray says:

    I plan on writing on this later, but for now here is a link that anyone interested in alternative energy should look into. Steven Harris is the guru of all things energy, and has done a few interviews on The Survival Podcast. He hates solar panels, and explains why in the first podcast.

    This first link is his personal page, the second link is his publishing page, it has a huge amount of information on different types of alternative energy. The last link is the page he set up for his dealings with the interviews on The Survival Podcast.

    I personally won’t spend the money on a full solar system, I may get a panel or two, but that’s it.


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