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Re: East Coast outage?
From: JC Dill <nanog () vo cnchost com>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2003 08:26:39 -0700

At 08:13 PM 8/14/2003, David Lesher wrote:

Then run parts at 105-110% and it gets really hard.

The power industry designs a grid that runs so close to capacity that if^W when something big fails, the whole grid shuts down in a cascade. They know it:

"What happens if <$big_num_watts> power plant suddenly spikes"?

"We have a cascade failure thru the whole grid as switches overload and shut off. This causes blackouts over a wide area, and it takes many hours to restore electrical service. Also, many outlying TelCo facilities have battery backup power that will be exhausted before we can restore power to them, and there aren't enough gen sets around to keep them all running when their batteries die. So TelCo service (and by extension, also Internet service) will fail in many areas as a result of the widespread electrical grid failure."

"How often can we expect this to occur?"

"Oh, once every decade or so, on one of the major grids. It usually happens when electric use is at peak demand, late afternoon during the summer."

"Oh.  Ok then.  Carry on."



"We're a superpower with a third-world grid. We need a new grid," New Mexico Gov. and former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told the CNN television network. "The problem is that nobody is building enough transmission capacity."

What's the point in having DOE and FERC regulation and oversight if they just rubber-stamp this type of design and endorse running at over-capacity on a routine basis? What happened to designing something so that it doesn't break when one big part fails, designing it so that switches don't get overloaded when a nearby plant spikes and goes off the grid? Is it *that* hard/expensive to have switching plants sufficiently resilient, with the extra capacity that can handle a *predictable and expected* event?

In California we design our systems to survive major earthquakes (e.g 7.x), even though they only happen once every 10-20 years, and then only affect a relatively small portion (compared to the size of power grids) of the state. When we discover that the engineering isn't resilient enough (e.g. when the Cypress structure collapsed and a piece of the SF Bay Bridge fell during the Loma Prieta quake in 1989), we find out what went wrong and FIX it, not just in the one inadequately designed structure or system, but statewide, system-wide. (We have rebuilt a lot of bridges in the last 14 years!) Yet we keep on seeing electrical switches that can't handle the load when a nearby plant spikes or goes off the grid, causing cascade failures. It is predictable and it has been happening for at least 40 years! Don't they notice that their design is inadequate and FIX it??? Quoting the above article again:

"According to the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, U.S. power demand has surged 30 percent in the last decade, while transmission capacity grew a mere 15 percent. "

They not only don't fix it, they let it get worse.  sigh...

Well, at least we now have a great argument against regulation when they try to create a Department of the Internet to oversee the "Internet industry".


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