Lights Out (Insert Your Hometown Here)! Reports: USA power grid fizzling out

Someone said that lightning never strikes the same place twice. That may be true, but for power outages not so much. The city of Detroit suffered its fourth power outage in five years on Dec. 2, 2014. According to news reports, the aging municipally owned and operated system suffered blackouts in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

Crumbling Power Grid Leads to Blackouts

Detroit is not the only city in the United States with power grid systems ready to fail due to age, lack of maintenance, and vulnerability to terrorist attacks. And while there is lots of talk about rebuilding infrastructure, I have heard little about protection from terrorists.

Numerous studies, both private and public, agree that the concerns about the vulnerability of the national electrical to fail is at an all-time high. The system suffers from continuing vulnerabilities, such as aging equipment, outdated engineering, and system structures that are obsolete. Adding to these problems is the lack of adequate security at plants and electrical grid computer systems that are easily hacked.

The American Society of Civil Engineers in the United States rated the American Power System a D+. The report said, “Aging equipment has resulted in an increasing number of intermittent power disruptions, as well as vulnerability to cyber attacks.”

In 2007, there were 76 significant power outages in the United States, and by 2011, the country suffered 307 outages in that year alone. This is an intolerable increase of more than 300 percent.

Power Grid Vulnerable to Terrorist Attack

I read a report released on Nov. 14, 2014 by the National Research Council (NRC), a private independent agency operating under a congressional charter. The report noted that the power grid of the United States spreads out over hundreds of miles. Within the grid, many key equipment pieces lack sensors needed to limit the reach of outages. These key pieces of electrical equipment are without guards or video surveillance.

As a result of the lax security, M. Granger Morgan, engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and chairman of the NRC committee said, “We could easily be without power across a multistate region for many weeks or months, because we don’t have many spare transformers.” Morgan also says that a terrorist attack on our national electrical grid could cause electrical system problems worse than those from Hurricane Sandy at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. The report concluded that the U.S. Power Grid is inherently vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

One phone call and I would have told them the same thing, and the dollars used for a study for which we all knew the outcome could pay to help begin correcting this under-publicized problem.

Protect Your Business

Many homeowners in areas prone to electrical outages from weather install home generators. These relatively inexpensive piece of equipment keep power on in homes for essential things such as keeping the refrigerator humming, the microwave nuking food, and the heat on.

Similar equipment for your business is available for purchase, lease or rent.

Cold storage facilities need a diesel generator or a natural gas-engine-powered generator to keep their storage facility cold.

In the field, such as a construction site, a Caterpillar Generator keeps power flowing to construction tools and equipment.

No matter the size of your business or what industry you are in, from small retail to large manufacturing, a generator that keeps lights on, equipment working, and allows you to continue to run during the duration of the blackout offers several competitive advantages, including:

  • Continued operations
  • Protected inventory (meat is an example)
  • Less lost income
  • Employees continue to work
  • Potential to help community

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