Replacement cost of the U.S. Electric Power Grid - $5 Trillion
$100 Billion just to maintain as is.
What makes up the U.S. electric power grid? Power plants, high and low voltage transmission lines, distribution lines, substations, and transformers. The diagram below shows the age of our power plants, red being the oldest. The average age is 35 years. In the West, most plants are 40-50 years old while on the East coast most are 100 years old. In Manhattan, the birthplace of our grid, some are 135 years old. The average age of transformers and transmission lines is 30 years.
Beware of the all in one solar generator boxes. These products are mass produced in China. Two of the most popular are Goal Zero and Humless, although there are many others. What I mean by all in one box is that they put all of the components (pure sine wave power inverter, solar charge controller, and battery) into the smallest box that they will fit into. Some may see this as a convenience, but there is an inherent danger here.
According to manufacturer specifications for the pure sine wave inverter, solar charge controller, and especially the battery is that they are to have adequate space, ventilation and must be mounted correctly. Electronic components heat up when they are in use, if you don't have enough space and proper ventilation these components become hot and can either burn up or malfunction. This is especially true for the battery whether it is an AGM or lithium ion. The battery is where your energy is stored. This is why Grid Eraser has a large steel power supply cabinet which provides more than adequate space for each component, but we also have numerous ventilation ports so that there is abundant air flow.
Compounding this problem is that these mass produced boxes in China utilize very thin wiring for the components, typically 12-14 gauge but sometimes 16 gauge. Here at Grid Eraser we use 1/O gauge for our pure sine wave inverter and our AGM solar battery, and 8 gauge for the solar charge controller. The lower gauge in wire is the thickest, while the higher gauge is the thinnest. You need the thickest copper wire possible because this is how energy flows between the components. Thin wire can melt easy, especially in a small confined space that is being heated up by the components.
Most of these all in one boxes have an A/C charger included. This is because they want you to recharge it by plugging into your wall A/C outlet. They know that their small panels will take 3-5 days to recharge the battery. By plugging into your wall you are defeating the purpose of the solar generator. At Grid Eraser our solar panels and solar arrays charge our units in 4-6 hours.
A quote posted on our YouTube page about a solar generator purchased from Solutions from Science aka My Solar Backup. "I purchased a Powersource 1800 and never used it. I kept it plugged in all the time and when I moved it and re-plugged it in it sparked and caught on fire within the circuit board."
There are also a number of competitors that take the all in one solar generator box a step further, and not in a good way. They actually put all the components encased behind the solar panel. So, now you have all the problems mentioned above plus now these components are exposed outside with the panel. In this day and age everyone's summer is hot and lasts longer than it used to - Climate Change. You never want electronics and batteries to be sitting outside in the sun and heat.
This is why we at Grid Eraser believe that our (solar generator) solar power system is the best on the market. In our 7 years we have put a lot of thought into design - form and function, and I believe that it shows. We have never had a failure in the field. And if a component were to fail at some point years down the road, you can replace that component. You do not need to buy a whole new system unlike our competitors. Don't purchase a trinket, buy a real "workhorse" solar system that provides power to real world devices and appliances.
The first thing to consider is if you are going to buy or lease the solar system. If you buy, what is the cost and are you going to purchase a battery backup system such as the Tesla Powerwall. Then you must determine how many solar panels and their orientation on your roof. Solar panel prices are coming down, but not battery prices or installation.
If you lease the system, what will happen with the system at the end of your lease? Will you buy it, extend the lease, or have it removed? What costs can you expect for each scenario? When leasing a rooftop solar system, incentives such as tax credits and depreciation are given to the system owner, not the homeowner. If you own a home with a leased rooftop solar system, you may need to pay additional property taxes. You can't take it with you when you sell and/or move. As a homeowner, you may have a lien placed on your property if the system is leased and not owned. That could complicate things when it comes to selling your property.
When it comes to savings, remember to factor in the cost of the monthly lease payment. Focusing on only the savings on your utility bill is just half the picture. Changes to electricity rates and regulations can impact the benefits outlined or promised in your contract. Net metering is going away - Hawaii, Nevada, CA, AZ, and maybe FL. Utilities are adding a monthly charge for solar customers for access to the grid.
Power Generated. Solar systems don’t generate enough power to start large appliances like your AC unit or pool pump. Stationary panels achieve optimal power 2-3 hours per day.
Power Outages/Battery backup. The power from solar panels is designed to shut off during power outages for safety reasons. So when there’s an outage, customers with rooftop solar lose power too. Rooftop solar systems are Grid Tied, that means when the power is out, you cannot generate electricity due to utility regulations/mandate. Battery Backup (Tesla powerwall) can't be recharged from the solar panels.
Roof Problems. Have the condition of your roof checked thoroughly. What happens if you need to repair your roof? Roof damage can happen during installation, including leaks or roof instability.
This is why a Grid Eraser portable solar powered system makes the most sense.
A major hurricane hasn’t made landfall in the U.S. since the record-setting storm activity of 2005. Statistically, such a pattern only comes along once every 270 years, according to NASA.
This decade-long “hurricane drought” is also the longest period without major (Category 3 and above) landfalling ‘canes in records stretching back to 1850. But that doesn’t mean 2016 will be calm. The researchers who conducted this analysis, Timothy Hall and Kelly Hereid, say there’s a 40 percent chance of a major hurricane moving inland every year.
The latest forecast for the Atlantic season gives a “near-normal” year of four to eight hurricanes, with one to four becoming major, though there’s no predicting what might make landfall. And as NASA points out, it doesn’t take a screaming, Katrina-level monster to cause havoc. “It should be noted that hurricanes making landfall as less than Category 3 can still cause extreme damage, with heavy rains and coastal storm surges,” the agency writes. “Such was the case with Hurricane Sandy in 2012.”
Source: John Metcalfe, CityLab
This is the “nightmare scenario” that lawmakers have been warning you about. Stores are closed. Cell service is failing. Broadband Internet is gone. Hospitals are operating on generators, but rapidly running out of fuel. Garbage is rotting in the streets, and clean water is scarce as people boil water stored in bathtubs to stop the spread of bacteria. And escape? There is none, because planes can’t fly, trains can’t run, and gas stations can’t pump fuel.
The threat of an attack on the nation’s power grid is all too real for the network security professionals who labor every day to keep the country safe. “In order to restore civilized society, the power has got to be back on,” said Scott Aaronson, who oversees the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), an industry-government emergency response program.
While cybersecurity experts and industry executives describe such warnings as alarmist, intelligence officials say people underestimate how destructive a power outage can be. The most damaging kind of attack, specialists say, would be carefully coordinated to strike multiple power stations. If hackers were to knock out 100 strategically chosen generators in the Northeast, for example, the damaged power grid would quickly overload, causing a cascade of secondary outages across multiple states. While some areas could recover quickly, others might be without power for weeks.
The scenario isn’t completely hypothetical. Lawmakers and government officials got a preview in 2003, when a blackout spread from the coastal Northeast into the Midwest and Canada. “If you think of how crippled our region is when we lose power for just a couple of days, the implications of a deliberate widespread attack on the power grid for the East Coast, say, would cause devastation,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Researchers have run the numbers on an East Coast blackout, with sobering results. A prolonged outage across 15 states and Washington, D.C., according to the University of Cambridge and insurer Lloyd’s of London, would leave 93 million people in darkness, cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars and cause a surge in fatalities at hospitals.
The geopolitical fallout could be even worse. “If [a major cyberattack] happens, that’s a major act of war, bombs are starting to fall,” said Cris Thomas, a well-known hacker who is now a strategist at security firm Tenable. A former senior intelligence official who spoke to The Hill echoed that assessment. The specter of a catastrophic attack on the electrical grid looms large for utilities and the federal government. They all agree that a “cyber Pearl Harbor” would be a deliberate attack, most likely from a foreign adversary. “It’s an act of war, not an act of God,” Aaronson said.
One of the most fearful aspects of a cyberattack is that they can be difficult to spot, even when they are happening.
At first, power providers may only notice a cascade of overloaded transmission lines failing in rapid succession — something that happened during the 2003 blackout, which was caused by an ordinary software bug. A major attack would trigger a series of actions laid out in an ESCC playbook, and even for regional blackouts, energy companies would begin communicating instantly.
Given all the preparations, it would seem that the U.S. has a rapid response plan ready to go in the event of any power grid hack. But according to numerous cybersecurity experts, companies are mostly basing their preparations on the few case studies they’ve seen, creating the potential for gaps. “I’ve spoken to CEOs and utilities about this problem,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a congressional hearing in March. “There’s clearly more to do.”
Last December, electric companies got their first look at what a blackout caused by hackers might look like.
In a coordinated assault, suspected Russian hackers penetrated Ukraine’s power grid, knocking out electricity for 225,000 people. The hackers flooded the customer service center with calls, causing technical difficulties and slowing the response.
“That isn’t the last we’re going to see of that,” National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers said recently. “And that worries me.”
Hackers already target the energy sector more than any other part of U.S. critical infrastructure, according to the most recent government report. There are more reported cyber incidents in the energy industry than in healthcare, finance, transportation, water and communications combined — and those are just the intrusion attempts that get noticed and reported. Probing the power grid for digital vulnerabilities — which China, Russia and Iran do routinely — is now considered a standard part of intelligence gathering. But those countries are careful not to disrupt economic and diplomatic relations with the U.S. No such constraints exist for rogue nations like North Korea and terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Source: By Katie Bo Williams and Cory Bennett, The Hill website
In this tour de force of investigative reporting, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.
It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”
And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid. The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.
In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?
With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.
New York Times bestselling author William R. Forstchen tells a story that might be all too terrifyingly real. A story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after American loses a war that sends our nation back to the Dark Ages.
A war lost because of a terrifying weapon, an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP).
And it may already be in the hands of our enemies.
Months before publication, One Second Afterhas already been cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read. It has been discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a realistic look at EMPs and their awesome ability to send catastrphic shockwaves throughout the United State, literally within seconds. It is a weapon that The Wall Street Journal warned could shatter ourn ation. In the tradition of On the Beach , Fail-Safe , and Testament , this book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future . . . and our end.
William R. Forstchen
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure through a cyber attack, the head of the National Security Agency told a Congressional panel Thursday. Admiral Michael Rogers, who also serves the dual role as head of U.S. Cyber Command, said the United States has detected malware from China and elsewhere on U.S. computers systems that affect the daily lives of every American.
"It enables you to shut down very segmented, very tailored parts of our infrastructure that forestall the ability to provide that service to us as citizens," Rogers said in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. Rogers said such attacks are part of the "coming trends" he sees based on "reconnaissance" currently taking place that nation-states, or other actors may use to exploit vulnerabilities in U.S. cyber systems.
A recent report by Mandiant, a cyber-security firm, found that hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government were able to penetrate American public utility systems that service everything from power generation, to the movement of water and fuel across the country. "We see them attempting to steal information on how our systems are configured, the very schematics of most of our control systems, down to engineering level of detail so they can look at where are the vulnerabilities, how are they constructed, how could I get in and defeat them," Rogers said. "We're seeing multiple nation-states invest in those kinds of capabilities."
Admiral Rogers declined to identify who the other countries, beside China, because of the classified nature of their identities. Russia is generally regarded as also having an aggressive cyber program. In addition to nation-state actors, Admiral Rogers noted the increasing presence of "surrogate" criminal actors in cyberspace that serve to obscure the hidden hand of criminal activity done on behalf of formal nation-states.
The testimony also comes in the wake of a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that cited a prediction by technology experts that a catastrophic cyber-attack that causes significant losses in life and financial damage would occur by 2025. Admiral Rogers told the committee he did not disagree with the assessment.
In addition to the threats from specific nation-states, Admiral Rogers said there are already groups within the U.S. cyber architecture who seek to cause major damage to corporate and other critical sectors of the American economy.
"It is only a matter of the when, not the if, that we are going to see something traumatic." he said.
Jamie Crawford, National Security Producer
A few significant facts about the U.S. power grid:
Electricity cannot be stored, or at least not much of it or for very long. It has to be used the moment it’s produced and transmitting it to where it’s needed is a delicate and precise balancing act. Getting the power to where it’s needed most may not even be possible depending on the number of transmission lines available. If one station produces too little energy during a hot summer day when all of the air conditioners are running, extra power has to be routed from somewhere else…immediately. If too much power is produced at one station that no area needs, the station must shut down. Yes, it’s probably true that there’s always a need, somewhere, but it’s again dependent on transmission lines to that point of need.
Even more troubling, from a security standpoint, are the large transformers which manage the system. When electricity is generated its voltage is “stepped up”, or transformed, into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of volts for transmission over long distances. It’s vastly more efficient to transmit electricity that way as less heat is generated and less electricity is lost. At the “user” end of that transmission another set of large, expensive transformers “step down” the voltage to levels that can be used in factories, malls, houses, etc. The problem is that those transformers are not manufactured in the U.S. and the lead time can be 2-4 years, if we’re lucky.
Yes, you read that correctly. The country that invented the means of mass producing and transmitting electrical power no longer has the capability of making some of the most critical components required to sustain and grow the system. The designs and manufacturing know-how have been “sub-contracted” (or sold outright) to offshore companies years ago and the manufacturing expertise, manufacturing facilities and machine tools no longer exist in the U.S. Some of those off-shore companies are controlled by the governments of the country where they exist. There’s enough blame to go around but the general economic environment of the last 25 years along with the near-term profit goals of corporate America and the short-sighted, attention-deficit nature of our federal elected officials have put us in the position of this accident-waiting-to-happen. The northeast section of our “grid” has already crashed once in the recent past and whether by happenstance or by overt plan, the next event is a matter of WHEN, not IF.
Ten years ago this month (8/14/2003) the Northeast blackout of 2003 occurred throughout parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. as well as parts of Ontario, Canada. It was the most widespread blackout in U.S. history and lasted for 2 to 5 five days in different parts of the region.
The blackout’s primary cause was a “software bug” (origin unknown) in a control room in Ohio. After transmission lines became overloaded, heated up and burst, the local blackout cascaded into widespread distress on northeast electric grid. The blackout affected an estimated 45 million people in 8 U.S. states and an estimated 10 million people in Ontario.
It only took about 30 minutes to roll through the northeast. From 4:10pm EDT through about 4:40pm EDT outages were reported in Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, New York City, Westchester, Orange and Rockland counties, Baltimore, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany, Detroit, and parts of New Jersey, including Newark. This was followed by other areas initially unaffected, including all of New York City, portions of southern New York State, New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut and most of the province of Ontario, Canada.
Diesel and gas back-up generators worked initially but eventually failed when supplies of fuel were depleted and electric gas pumps no longer operated. Water systems lost pressure, cellular service failed as a result of loss of power to towers or call overload, subways closed and all Amtrak and airline flights were shut down.
The cost was in the billions and untold deaths were caused, but all in all this was a relatively “mild” event and power was restored in most of the affected areas in 2 to 5 days. Should a larger, more serious outage occur the destruction of property and the loss of lives would be far worse than the Civil war and nothing would ever be the same in the U.S. Only a very small number of large transformers were damaged, most were shut down quickly by regional control stations. However, if 10-12 of these large transformers were to be destroyed it would put us practically back in the Stone Age. Rumors exist to this day that the “software” bug that caused the 2003 blackout was a virus introduced into our grid by a foreign power and that the blackout was a “test”. Was it a computer “virus” and does it still exist? Or does there now exist a more elusive virus? I HOPE NOT!!
The U.S. electrical grid is better managed and more flexible a decade after the largest blackout but remains vulnerable to increasingly extreme weather, cyber security threats and stress caused by shifts in where and how power is produced. According to William Booth, a senior electricity advisor with the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “This job of reliability (assurance) is kind of impossible, in the sense that there are just so many things that could happen that it’s hard to be sure that you’re covering all the bases”.
I believe that having a dependable, safe and affordable “off grid” alternative energy source is a wise and prudent thing to do.
Senator Byron L. Dorgan, William Booth, David Hagberg, Associated Press, Wikipedia, Joe Welch (ITC Holdings Corp)