AuthorTopic: GRID DOWN!  (Read 2182 times)

Offline RE

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GRID DOWN!
« on: July 18, 2014, 10:01:15 PM »
This is the Official Diner Thread for Electrical Grid Disruptions anywhere on the Globe.

Kicking it off with this article from Chris Martenson.

RE

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The Electrical Grid May Well Be The Next War's Battlefield

Tyler Durden's picture



Submitted by Chris Martenson via Peak Prosperity,

We talk a lot about Peak Cheap Oil as the Achilles' heel of the exponential monetary model, but the real threat to the quality of our daily lives would be a sustained loss of electrical power. Anything over a week without power for any modern nation would be a serious problem.

When the power goes out, everything just stops. For residential users, even a few hours begins to intrude heavily as melting freezers, dying cell phones, and the awkward realization that we don't remember how to play board games nudge us out of our comfort zone.

However, those are just small inconveniences.

For industrial and other heavy users, the impact of even a relatively short outage can be expensive or even ghastly. Hospitals and people on life-assisting machinery are especially vulnerable. Without power, aluminum smelters face the prospect of the molten ore solidifying in the channels from which it must be laboriously removed before operations can be restarted.

Many types of nuclear power plants have to switch to back-up diesel generators to keep the cooling pumps running. And if those stop for any reason (like they run out of fuel), well, Fukushima gave us a sense of how bad things can get.

And of course banking stops, ATMs are useless, and gas stations cannot pump gas. Just ask the people of New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

A blackout of a few hours results in an inconvenience for everyone and something to talk about.

But one more than a day or two long? Things begin to get a bit tense; especially in cities, and doubly so if it happens in the hot mid-summer months.

Anything over a week and we start facing real, life-threatening issues. National Geographic ran a special presentation, American Blackout, in October 2013 -- it presented a very good progression covering exactly what a timeline of serious grid disruption would look and feel like. I recommend the program for those interested.

 

Grid Threats

We're exploring this risk because there are a number of developments that could knock out the power grid for a week or more. They include a coronal mass ejection (CME), a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device, a cascading grid failure, and malicious hacking or electronic attacks.

It’s the cyber-electronic front that's especially concerning these days, as we depend so vitally on so many systems that operate completely dependent on computer controls.

Many critical manufacturing and power generation systems are especially vulnerable to such attacks, as the Stuxnet virus showed in Iran where it is believed to have ruined thousands of delicate uranium enrichment centrifuges by overriding their commands and causing them to literally spin themselves to pieces.

As one Peak Prosperity member recently wrote:

 
 

My great fear is not supersonic missiles, it's a combined-arms cyber attack plus (as necessary) kinetic assault on the power grid, with the "calling card" being left pointing to some convenient domestic extremist group scapegoat.

 

The FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) released a report that suggested the US power grid could be knocked out for "weeks if not months" by taking out only 9 substations using a coordinated kinetic attack.

 

Given that one substation was actually assaulted by persons unknown last year:

 

In last April's attack at PG&E Corp.'s Metcalf substation, gunmen shot 17 large transformers over 19 minutes before fleeing in advance of police. The state grid operator was able to avoid any blackouts.

 

The Metcalf substation sits near a freeway outside San Jose, Calif. Some experts worry that substations farther from cities could face longer attacks because of their distance from police. Many sites aren't staffed and are protected by little more than chain-link fences and cameras.

 

So this power station assault actually happened. This whole thing isn't just someone's crazy dream.

 

(Source)

You can be certain that such concerns are very high on the list of things that the NSA worries about, and which it feels justify the use of whatever electronic eavesdropping may be necessary to guard against.

A widespread loss of the electrical grid for even one week would be devastating for a number of reasons. First the fuel refining, manufacturing, distribution and delivery systems would cease to function. After emergency generators are used to move and distribute what processed fuel is in the system, are only remaining fuel will be that brought into the country from other regions of the world.

Within a very short time, perhaps just days or hours of what is perceived to be a sustained loss of electrical power, the fuel system will be placed under emergency triage rationing -- with hospitals, nuclear generation plants, the military, police and other emergency services consuming 100% of what’s available. Sorry, none for you.

With every additional day that the electricity is out the damage to the afflicted nation mounts.  Food, fuel, and water, become scarce and sanitation problems rapidly  accumulate.

Here's the thing: cyber penetrations and outright kinetic attacks on US power grid elements have already happened. Given the extreme disruption that would result from any successful future attacks, you should have some personal preparations in place.

Our Woeful Grid

The US power grid, as a whole, is anything but modern and robust. Huge swaths of it were built decades ago. It remains largely a centralized generation and distribution system, one in which the failure of a remarkably few 'nodes' would be catastrophic.

It's millions of miles of lines, utility poles, towers, substations and generating stations. Here's a good, short description:

 
 

Today [2003], the US electric power grid serves about 125 million residential customers, 17.6 million commercial customers, and 775,000 industrial customers. These various categories of customers account, respectively, for about 37%, 36%, and 27% of electricity consumption annually.

 

Electricity is produced at large power plants typically located in remote areas and delivered into high-voltage transmission lines that transport it across long distances to regional and neighborhood substations, where the voltage is stepped down to a current that can be used in homes and offices and fed into a local distribution grid.

 

Between 1949 and 1973, electricity use in the United States grew at an average annual rate of 8.3%, and the system was able to meet that demand with only sporadic difficulty. Even with rising prices after 1973, electricity use grew at an average annual rate of 2.5% in the years from 1973 to 2006. The growth rate projected for the next 20 years is comparatively flat.

 

The electric grid encompasses both transmission and distribution (T&D) power grids. The transmission system spans more than 160,000 miles (257,000) of high-voltage transmission lines and connects over 750 GW of electricity-generating capacity with local and regional demand centers across the nation. In addition, the electricity distribution system, which consists of smaller, lower-voltage distribution lines that deliver power from substations and transformers to customers, encompasses 6 million miles (9.6 million) of wire and cable spread across roughly 500,000 circuits and linked to the national transmission system by about 60,000 substations.

 

(Source) http://www.brooksidestrategies.com/resources/origins-and-evolution-of-th...

The substations circled in green in the image above are the most vulnerable points in the system.

The alternative to this mass of interconnected wires would be a decentralized, smart grid involving a very large number of small generating 'stations' where thousands of failures would be required to cause a sustained loss of power for millions.

But currently?

The loss of just nine critical substations could mean a catastrophic loss of power for up to 18 months. What the country would look like after that, and whether such an insult could be recovered from is an open question.

 
 

U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack

 

The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country's 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis.

 

The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation's three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse, people familiar with the research said.

 

A small number of the country's substations play an outsize role in keeping power flowing across large regions. The FERC analysis indicates that knocking out nine of those key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months.

 

A memo prepared at FERC in late June for Mr. Wellinghoff before he briefed senior officials made several urgent points. "Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer," said the memo, which was reviewed by the Journal. That lengthy outage is possible for several reasons, including that only a handful of U.S. factoriesbuild transformers.

 

(Source)

The Us grid consists of three big regions, and is designed in such a way that the failure of just a few critical components would drag the whole thing down.

Again, that insult could be a deliberate attack, an EMP device, a CME, or even a squirrel on the wrong transformer on a hot day that leads to a cascading series of failures.

These vulnerabilities could be addressed, but the main point of this report is to note that over the years since they’ve been identified they mostly have not been addressed.

Does all of this seem too unlikely to worry about? Well, you might want to consider that we only recently learned that a massive CME narrowly missed the earth in 2012, the exact sort of threat we covered in great detail in a past podcast with a NASA scientist:

 
 

Carrington-class CME Narrowly Misses Earth

May 2, 2014

 

The close shave happened almost two years ago. On July 23, 2012, a plasma cloud or "CME" rocketed away from the sun as fast as 3000 km/s, more than four times faster than a typical eruption. The storm tore through Earth orbit, but fortunately Earth wasn't there. Instead it hit the STEREO-A spacecraft. Researchers have been analyzing the data ever since, and they have concluded that the storm was one of the strongest in recorded history. "It might have been stronger than the Carrington Event itself," says Baker.

 

The Carrington Event of Sept. 1859 was a series of powerful CMEs that hit Earth head-on, sparking Northern Lights as far south as Tahiti. Intense geomagnetic storms caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices and disabling the 'Victorian Internet." A similar storm today could have a catastrophic effect on modern power grids and telecommunication networks.

 

(Source)

How much did this storm miss us by? About one week. If the earth had been just 7/365 (1.9%) further along in its path, an entire hemisphere would have gotten shellacked. And, oh by the way, do any of you recall hearing of any warnings from NASA or other government bodies in 2012 that such a blast was headed our way and how closely it missed us by?

Me neither. So perhaps we shouldn't count on getting an official warning in the future either.

Conclusion (Part 1)

The main conclusion here is that you should be at least moderately prepared for a sustained electricity outage, at least to the same degree that you carry fire insurance on your property. Both are remote -- but catastrophic -- events where a little advance preparation can go a long way.

In Part 2: Reducing Your Risk To A Grid-Down Event we reveal the vulnerabilities mostly likely to cause prolonged outages of the national power grid: cyber attacks. The current system in the US has a disconcerting number of failure points that can -- and are, the data shows -- being targeted by malicious agents. 

More important, we lay out the specific steps concerned individuals should take at the home level to have backup support and protection should the grid go down. The cost of such preparation is very low compared to the huge magnitude of this low-probability, but highly disruptive, risk.

Save As Many As You Can

Offline monsta666

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Re: GRID DOWN!
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2014, 12:42:43 AM »
Although the point was mentioned no real thought was given to the implications of banking failures. Recently the branch I worked in suffered a blackout in power which was bad enough to cause all computer systems and network systems to shut down. Branch had to be closed and people redirected. The issue here is it was not just ATMs that stopped working but even our computers that held customer's accounts were no longer accessible. In a wide scale blackout people would not only have no capacity to obtain their money but the bank records for accounts would be severely diminished and this would have an enormous impact on trade.

Saying all that in the case of my bank customer accounts are largely not stored in our branch instead the data is distributed to a centralised location and all branches connect to the centre so a localised blackout can be tolerated whereas a large scale blackout would be very problematic. I am assuming other banks hold similar structures in terms of data retention. These issues of blackout vulnerability are likely to get worse in the future as banks become increasingly automated with their operations which is the current trend as not only will blackouts have a bigger effect but it will be harder to go back to previous systems that can operate in conditions of no or intermittent electricity as companies will increasingly lack the resources and labour to operate legacy systems.

Offline Surly1

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Re: GRID DOWN!
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2014, 05:58:11 AM »
Superb article by Chris Martinson. Note closely what he had to say about NASA, and the utter and complete silence from NASA about the recent CMP event.  File that under, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."

Monsta notes the impact on banking, which would grind the economy to an instant halt.  Having just spent a week in a hospital, my thoughts went immediately to that, although hospitals do carry emergency generation systems, which will operate as long as they can get fuel. The impact on trash pickup and the sanitation would be a real public health issue for those in the cities.

I actually have some first-hand experience with this.  In 2003, hurricane Isabel passed directly over us. Hurricane Isabel was the costliest, deadliest, and strongest hurricane that year. From Wikipedia:

Quote
...Within an environment of light wind shear and warm waters it steadily strengthened to reach peak winds of 165 mph (265 km/h) on September 11. After fluctuating in intensity for four days, Isabel gradually weakened and made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with winds of 105 mph (165 km/h) on September 18. It quickly weakened over land and became extratropical over western Pennsylvania the next day.

In North Carolina, the storm surge from Isabel washed out a portion of Hatteras Island to form what was unofficially known as Isabel Inlet. Damage was greatest along the Outer Banks, where thousands of homes were damaged or even destroyed. The worst of the effects of Isabel occurred in Virginia, especially in the Hampton Roads area and along the shores of rivers as far west and north as Richmond and Washington, DC. Virginia reported the most deaths and damage from the hurricane. About 64% of the damage and 68% of the deaths occurred in North Carolina and Virginia. Electric service was disrupted in areas of Virginia for several days, some more rural areas were without electricity for weeks, and local flooding caused thousands of dollars in damage.

Moderate to severe damage extended up the Atlantic coastline and as far inland as West Virginia. Roughly six million people were left without electric service in the eastern United States from the strong winds of Isabel.

We were without power for eight days, due entirely to the fact that the storm uprooted hundreds of trees, which often grow in this part of the country with very shallow root systems.  A large spruce in my own backyard did not fall, but developed a serious lean, which led me to contract someone after the fact to take it down.  Those fallen trees took power lines down with them.  cleanup was time-consuming and expensive.

Living without electrical power is a fascinating exercise.  At first, you leave your refrigerator closed as much as possible, knowing that everything in there, and in your freezer, is on the clock...  Unless, of course, you have a generator, which I do not.  (And don't even think of buying one in such circumstances.)  Later, after you have emptied the refrigerator, and grilled everything worth grilling that you haven't been obliged to dispose of, time slows down. No electronics. No TV. No distractions. I noted at the time that we were living a 19th century lifestyle.  Want light after dark? Light candles. Your rhythms quickly adapt to the availability of sunlight. People bring out books, knitting and other hobbies, and musical instruments. I'll never forget listening to a friend's daughter play a flute solo on my front porch by candlelight one evening.

You take a keen interest in finding out from neighbors where ice is available, and procuring some.

There was actually much to recommend this strange and difficult period. The amount by which time slowed down was palpable.  And then, eight days later, the power was restored, the meters and gears started whizzing again, and the spell was broken.

Martenson's observations about the fragility of the grid are duly noted. At no time should we forget that are solons in DC this week voted for many millions of dollars to give to Israel for its "Iron Dome" missile defense system. At no time will the Republiconfederate House of Representatives consider any sort of infrastructure bill, by which we might insure ourselves against the kind of catastrophes that Martenson describes.

It's all about priorities, ain't it?
"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline jdwheeler42

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Re: GRID DOWN!
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2014, 11:50:24 AM »
And, oh by the way, do any of you recall hearing of any warnings from NASA or other government bodies in 2012 that such a blast was headed our way and how closely it missed us by?

I believe I did... because I am signed up at http://spaceweather.com/services/  (Free email, text messages have a charge)

Typically I seem to read them about 4-6 hours before they hit.... I think I'd have about 12 hours if I kept up with my email.
Making pigs fly is easy... that is, of course, after you have built the catapult....

Offline RE

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Re: GRID DOWN!
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2014, 02:41:20 PM »
Having just spent a week in a hospital, my thoughts went immediately to that, although hospitals do carry emergency generation systems, which will operate as long as they can get fuel.

In a Super-Carrington Event, Hospital Generators would be useless.  All the electronic equipment they would run in the hospital would be fried.  The generators themselves probably would not work, since they have microprocessor controls on them.  Anybody who was on any kind of electrically driven or controlled life support system would be dead in pretty short order.  This would not be a good time to be on the operating table.

RE
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Offline RE

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Re: GRID DOWN!
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2014, 02:50:50 PM »
Living without electrical power is a fascinating exercise.  At first, you leave your refrigerator closed as much as possible, knowing that everything in there, and in your freezer, is on the clock...  Unless, of course, you have a generator, which I do not.  (And don't even think of buying one in such circumstances.)  Later, after you have emptied the refrigerator, and grilled everything worth grilling that you haven't been obliged to dispose of, time slows down. No electronics. No TV. No distractions. I noted at the time that we were living a 19th century lifestyle.  Want light after dark? Light candles. Your rhythms quickly adapt to the availability of sunlight. People bring out books, knitting and other hobbies, and musical instruments. I'll never forget listening to a friend's daughter play a flute solo on my front porch by candlelight one evening.

Candles?  That is sooo 19th Century!

Crank up Diode Lights are the way to go here!


I used mine extensively at the Convocation on Eddie's Toothstead.  :icon_sunny:

Do you still not have a portable Generator?  I wrote a post last night which unfortunately got lost in the ether about portable generators.  I am looking at buying one as an accessory for the EWz.  My Bugout Mchine has a 3000W generator on board, but I want one small enough to carry on the EWz.  I'll be rewriting this post today.

RE
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Offline Randy C

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Re: GRID DOWN!
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2014, 07:56:43 AM »
I bought a used 5000 watt unit to run my milking machine as I really really hate milking cows by hand.  I only have three cows but it is not a nice experience for any of us. 

The generator will also run the milk can cooler and the freezers for as long as there is gas on hand to run it.  The plan is to start canning the contents of the freezer (it also has a lot of water bottles in it for coolers) and make cheese every day with the milk if we can't deliver it.  Once the fuel is gone, it is back to hand milking and we will also drag a water tank down to the pond outlet and catch the cool water coming from the springs and put the milk can in there to cool.  Milk will keep this way for a few days, so it either gets processed into cheese/butter or given to neighbors as a good will gift.

In 2003 we were only without power for about a day when Isabel came through Fredericksburg, but up in Stafford things were much worse.  Within a few days peoples tempers were running thin due to a lack of fuel for generators.  Also, some enterprising people had headed west to find Lowe's and Home Depots to buy up all their generators, jerry cans and oil and brought them back to Stafford and sold them for 100% mark up.  I understand they sold quick. 

I do think that Northern VA would fly apart if the power was out for two weeks.  Personally, we are ready for a very long term outage, but that has taken some effort to transition off electric and gas for many things, but I don't think my business would survive much more than a couple of weeks.  Once we can't get gas for the generator or diesel for the truck, or our customers run out of cash to pay us, then that comes to an end.  Out here in the mountains, cash is common, but in Blacksburg/Christiansburg, people don't carry a lot of cash.

When the EMP Commission said about ten years ago that 90% of the population would be dead in the US after six months without electric power, I believe it.

Offline Surly1

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Re: GRID DOWN!
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2014, 09:07:27 AM »

I do think that Northern VA would fly apart if the power was out for two weeks.  Personally, we are ready for a very long term outage, but that has taken some effort to transition off electric and gas for many things, but I don't think my business would survive much more than a couple of weeks.  Once we can't get gas for the generator or diesel for the truck, or our customers run out of cash to pay us, then that comes to an end.  Out here in the mountains, cash is common, but in Blacksburg/Christiansburg, people don't carry a lot of cash.

Nothing like living without electrical power for over a week to drive home and appreciation for just how much Every. Single. Facet. Of Life depends on energy coming from the switch.  You apparently have done really well to transition away from grid dependence, but still recognize your own vulnerability.  I spent enough time in Northern Virginia to realize that those folks, with their sprawling suburbs will be toast. Just like me.  In fact, as RE has observed many times, when the grid goes down or some other singular dislocation occurs, the cities of the last place you want to be.

Quote
When the EMP Commission said about ten years ago that 90% of the population would be dead in the US after six months without electric power, I believe it.

 I have no reason to doubt the words that.  Starvation, then widespread contagion will do most of the work.
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Offline RE

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Milking Cows
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2014, 06:53:22 PM »
I bought a used 5000 watt unit to run my milking machine as I really really hate milking cows by hand.  I only have three cows but it is not a nice experience for any of us.

I'm wondering if there is not an Intermediary Solution between an electrically driven Milking Machine and doing it by hand.

It is basically a mechanical process as I see it (knowing little about milking cows of course).

What about a Bicycle Pedal powered apparatus which would pump milk as it is drawn from Elsie?  You could use a hose apparatus with a roller that moves the milk along the hose and drives a squeezing apparatus at the same time.

Roamer?

RE
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Offline Randy C

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Re: GRID DOWN!
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2014, 02:02:16 PM »
Actually, there is, it is called a one horse treadmill.  I bought one in the fall of 2010 with just that in mind, to run the milk pump.  Problem is, it requires a horse and horses require foot care and that requires a farrier.  And, no, that is not something that I can just pick up.  The other problem is that the treadmill may solves one problem (rotational energy) but it does not solve the problem that cup liners (the part that hangs on the cow and milks them) and the parts in the vacuum actuated pulsator that provides the back and forth sucking on the teat (expand and contract cycle) don't last much more than a year.  One set of liners per year and two pulsator rebuild kits.  So, in the end, you're back to hand milking anyway.  I'm sure after a month the cows would forget about the milking machine and stop kicking the pale over and trying to step on or kick me.  And my hands would also adjust to the new demand, though I'm sure they would hurt a lot....

I sold the treadmill last summer to another horse farmer after we decided to put this place on the market.  If we ever make it out of here and find another foxstead I plan to go back to goats as they are easy to milk and are a bit more durable than cows are.  Cows are prone to falling and when they slip on the cement and fall, it can result in a broken hip and that is the end of them.  Goats on the other hand bounce.  And yes, we had a goat dairy for five years in addition to the cows.

 

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