Question on Electricity

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tictac1's picture
tictac1
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Posts: 175
Question on Electricity

Hi All-

I work for a power plant, so bear that in mind with this question.

How likely do we consider the possibility that power will be unavailable for weeks on end, or perhaps months?  If we look at natural disasters in other areas, it seems that power outages are pretty short-term, and only wars cause serious electricity problems.  I know my plant would be doing everything possible to restore power in the event of a disaster, as would our field crews.  A large storm might knock out power to remote areas for a week or so, but I've having a hard time envisioning wide-spread power outages that last for months at a time.

Can somebody please enlighten me as to how an economic collapse, ala Weimar or Argentina, would severely disrupt power distribution?

Thanks to all who respond!

james_knight_chaucer's picture
james_knight_chaucer
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Joined: Feb 21 2009
Posts: 160
I guess it all boils down to

I guess it all boils down to oil. If there is a major oil shortage, will you and your colleagues be able to get to work, and once you are at work, will you have fuel to go out to make repairs? Is there an emergency fuel supply at your workplace for essential employees?

earthwise's picture
earthwise
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Joined: Aug 10 2009
Posts: 848
Back atcha, tictac

tictac1

You would probably have  better insight than us. It's a question I've struggled with while deciding on the PV system I recently had installed. Battery bank or no battery bank? Since the grid essentially serves as my 'battery', and if the grid might prove unreliable then a battery system is a better bet although a great deal more expensive. On the other hand, if the grid is less vulnerable than the economy, then the grid is a better bet.

What's your insider view tell you? Where are the vulnerabilities?

goes211's picture
goes211
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Posts: 1114
What kind of collapse?

tictac1,

It all depends upon how you think society will colapse.  I would assume under all but the most extreme cases, electricity will continue to be provided.  After all, how can any government claim any sort of legitimacy if it cannot at least provide the essentials like water, sewer, and electrical power.  The only way that those things could be put at risk are:

  1. What would happen under a sudden total currency collapse?  The roads might get quite dangerous and fuel would become scarce.  How would employees get to and from work and how would they get paid?
  2. EMP.  Check out "One Second After" or "Lights Out".
  3. Utility rates are usually controlled by government.  What would happen under hyperinflation if the utilities could not raise rates along with their costs?  Would they be able to continue to provide their services?  How long would employees continue to work if their real wages were going down every day?

I have no idea how likely these scenario's are but I have to assume that short of a Mad Max situation, essential services will somehow continue to be provided, unless the government proves to be even more incompetent than most people can imagine.

tictac1's picture
tictac1
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Joined: Sep 25 2009
Posts: 175
well, the fuel issue is

well, the fuel issue is certainly a big one.  Yes, we do keep fuel on site, but it's about 2500 gallons, not enough for an entire plant worth of employees.  However, I have no doubt our management would quickly stock more fuel on site and limit it to essential personnel, based on what we've done in other emergencies.  Of course, how long could you do that for?  In the past, we've gone to "stranded plant" status, which means people live at the plant until the emergency passes.  Pays well, but no fun!

Hmmm, economy vs. nuke plant?  Given what we're seeing in the economy, my vote is for the nuke plant.  Being a nuke plant means both the government and public will generally support what it takes to keep this place "safe", which means operable.

Vulnerabilities vary from plant to plant, location to location.  In CA, the 500kv lines carrying the power are the weakest link, from a physical standpoint.

Personally, both myself and a co-worker have looked at solar, but we're not sold yet.  One of the primary reasons is that we can't envision a scenario where power is cut to major areas for extended periods of time.  But we are both open to ideas, which is why we're here!

Having said that, I could DEFINETLY see remote areas going without repairs, and consequently without power, for long periods due to critical shortages.  The power companies would go to a "triage" method for determining who gets what.  If I lived in a cabin, I would have solar or wind power, period.

tictac1's picture
tictac1
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 25 2009
Posts: 175
Currency collapse is an area

Currency collapse is an area we've talked about.  I'd like to know, what happened to public utilities and their workers during Argentina's collapse?  That might give us some clues, but I have no way to get info like that.  Perhaps we have some readers from South America?

War is an "all bets are off" scenario, infrastructure in target areas would be shot, I expect, which might include power plants.  Of course, there's not much need to attack the US if we collapse under the weight of our own stupidity...:(

osb272646's picture
osb272646
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Joined: Mar 14 2010
Posts: 120
Argentina

If you google "ferfal", you will find lots of information on how Argentina fared during a financial collapse about 10 years ago.  He runs a blog and has written a book or maybe two about his personal experiences and observations.

Specifically to the question of electrical power, his blog states that it sometimes became sporadic with rolling blackouts, significant voltage drops and brownouts, but did not disappear completely.  He purchased a device that protects his home from low voltage conditions that could damage his appliances.

 His opinion concerning power loss in the U.S. and other first world countries was that in an economic collapse like Argentina experienced,  we might face similar rolling blackouts and brownouts, but total loss of power would be unlikely.

SteveW's picture
SteveW
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Joined: Jan 21 2010
Posts: 490
Motor fuel shortage

A major fuel shortage would lead to rationing.

Critical industries, services (police, fire, medical etc.) would be exempted and have goverment issued permits allowing them to buy the critical fuel supplies that will have been coloured with a dye, to prevent cheating and for enforcement.

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