Posted by: drgeophysics | August 1, 2012

Largest electrical power failure in history — 600 million people affected; welcome to Camp Rest-of-your-life.

This shows constraints to power sharing between regional electrical networks in the US. An integrated network is much more stable than a series of unconnected grids.

I followed the news of the massive electrical power outages in India with much interest beginning Monday morning.  I have some interaction with people in the electrical power transmission area and it’s an important activity.  The complexity of the networks and dedication of those involved is amazing.  Here are some reports of the outage (now the largest in human history) and some resources.

So what happened?  India has a weak and unstable national electric grid.  Most major corporations have essentially detached from it, this form of local-only power generation is called captive power, for the national grid this results in a less stable situation. For details check this link.   Bottom line “India has missed every capacity addition target since 1951.” Wow.     The population of India in 2011 was 1,241,491,960 according to the World Bank.

Ready for the details?  Take a deep breath and plow through these links.

An up to date account can be found here at the site.

CNN has some amazing images of what happens to a densely populated urban society when the electricity goes away.  Here is the link, be sure to look at the images, they are unreal.  The last one I found truly sad.  Plan Z in areas suffering electrical power outages is portable electrical generators for families, captive power generation at the lowest level, all burning gasoline. Chaos follows.

The Huffpost jumps in here with a perspective.  This starts to compare this outage with others, such as the 2005 Indonesian power outage, which affected 100 million people.

LA Times account is here; let the shirk fest begin!  This account describes some of the finger pointing that will continue until people are distracted from this event.  There was already an official committee formed on Monday to study what happened.  Reuters report is here. 

The Times of India has an interesting account, be sure to read the comments, they are as interesting as anything on the web.   The Kashmir Monitor account can be found here and has some interesting details regarding frequency stability problems in this region of the India grid.

Here are some details about frequency of power transmission and the Indian electrical system (Wiki).

Wiki comes through again (and again and again) with an updated list of power outages, including the Indian outage at this URL.  The 2003 NE US (55 million) and 1965 NE US (30 million) power outages make this list.

In the United States the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has a  leadership role in documenting and protecting our electrical power transmission capability and topology.  I encourage you to review this site; there are some interesting things within.    The industrial affiliate group involved in this activity is the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI).   This shows some of the topology of the lower 48 US grid.

National grid maps can be found at the Global Energy Network Institute (GENI) web site.

Bravo, you have the basics of electrical grids, how they work, and what went wrong in India covered.  How much electrical power does the United States use daily?  In 2006 this was 11.13 billion KWh per day.   That’s a lot of electrons.

If you would like to review what electricity is, the California Energy Commission has a fun web site.  Here is the main link, here is the section about electricity.   Need a more serious review?  Wiki has you covered–here is the section about electricity, a great read.

An integrated, national grid that is modern, closely monitored, and expertly run is a key necessity of any industrial society.  The benefits of a national grid to the US are thoroughly presented in this PDF. Surprisingly, there are other opinions.  I have heard individuals express the opinion that electrical power should not be shared by states, (captive power on steroids and the end of our industrial society), however, such a radical opinion is unusual.

An amazing thing is that you are also full of electrons!  Well not literally full, but you get the idea, you have a lot of them.  Following this logic, you have approximately 1.80 x 10^28 electrons in your body right now; I salute them all.


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