Blackout: What’s wrong with the American grid

Our grid is old. The average substation transformer is 42 years old???two years older than the designed lifespan of a substation transformer. For the most part, our grid hasn???t been modernized???it???s largely mechanical equipment operating a digital world, Clark Gellings said. Perhaps most importantly, the grid isn???t being prepared for the future.

???From 1995-2000, the electricity sector put less than ??? of 1% of net sales into research and development,??? Massoud Amin said. ???In the following six years, that number dropped to less than 2/10 of 1%. We are harvesting the existing infrastructure more and investing less and less in the future.???

Phasor networks are a success story in the making. So are new national rules Gellings told me about, which put a much higher penalty on utility companies that don???t keep their trees trimmed. One untrimmed tree can cost $1 million in fines. All of this will help prevent blackouts of the size we had in 2003. But it doesn???t help deal with what???s coming 20-30 years down the road.

We are almost 10 years removed from the 2003 blackout that crippled the northeast. While a blackout of this magnitude isn’t likely to happen the same way again, our electrical infrastructure in this country is incredibly old.

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About Matthew Peterworth

I currently work as a Technology Specialist at Henderson Engineers in Kansas City – a Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing (MEP) design firm. Prior to that I was a Project Manager for Information Technology Services (ITS), the central IT department at the University of Texas at Austin. As of July 2008 I am a Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) through BICSI. And as of June 2011 I am a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in the great state of Texas. Please follow me on Twitter @mpeterworth. https://twitter.com/mpeterworth

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