Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: sooke, BC, Canada
What caused the Black-out
Here is an explanation for what is happening and why a power grid cannot be restaured quickly. NewYork, Cleveland, Toronto,... are part of one power system. They are supplied in power by generating plants in that system and by power imported from other systems (Quebec is a major exporter). The nature of electrical systems is such that demand must always be met by supply. If it doesn't computers will automatically shed load. Now think of an electrical system in the following terms: think of a number of weights (demand centers) hanging from a number of interconnected rubber bands (power lines) from a board. When demand increases (man, it is hot!) the weights become heavier and the rubber bands stretch more and more. Suppose you have a defect in one of the bands and it snaps; all the other bands stretch even more, but if they were close to their limit another band will snap, making the situation even worse, and then another, etc... (the cascade effect). When a generating plant loses its load abruptly, it has to shut down. This takes time, and to bring it back on line takes even more time.
You can blame the politicians but we are also partly to blame. Very few new plants and power lines have been build in the last 10 or 20 years. So power suppliers had to find ways of making electricity supply more economical Sharing generating reserves was one way of doing this. (the all for one, one for all philosophy). the flip side of that decision is of course if one city in that system has a major problem, all cities in the system will share the problem.
Public opinion has switched against building new nuclear and large thermal plants and even building a new power line is very time consuming. This is why power systems are running with little spare reserve and we should expect more and more of these situations.