Posts Tagged ‘power grid’

Blackout! and other news

15 April 2014

Monday (the 7th of April) was one of the warmest days of the year so far in Pullman. Having neglecting my weekend grocery shopping, I accomplished it that Monday afternoon and returned home at 4:30 or so. By the evening I was busy with one of my electronics projects. At about 6:30 or so the lights flickered, went out entirely, pulsed back on once again, and again died in what seemed a kind of spasm.

It was pitch black in my basement apartment, though not nearly sunset time yet. I fumbled around on my work table until I found my flashlight. I use it to inspect my soldering work. Then I searched around the place for a better source of light. I found a head lamp I had purchased from All Electronics and a shake-light I had acquired I don’t recall where. The head lamp was great for getting around inside. I found my jacket, put on my shoes, and went out to see what was going on.

As I went out “front” (the side facing east onto Grand) a car from the fire station up the street drove by with siren on. Other than that, all seemed normal. A couple were above me, leaning on the balcony railing, speaking quietly about the loss of our electric power. So I went back in.

I put my head lamp back on, sat down at my work table, and tried to continue on the design I had started, hoping the power would soon come back. But, it didn’t. It was basically too dark to do anything. Inside it was completely quiet, as the fridge – the only source of noise – was off. I resolved not to open it until the power came back up, in hopes that my just-purchased food would stay reasonably cold. There was nothing else to do. Without electric power I was totally without the usual devices that I use day-to-day. My only battery-powered devices are flashlights (I plan to change that some day). I don’t have any “mobile devices” (I don’t plan to change that any time soon).

So, I went to bed.

I didn’t rest well, as I kept anticipating the power returning. It finally did at about 12:30. I was needing now to get my rest, so I stayed in bed a while. But all the lights were on. So I finally got up and turned everything off and went back to bed for real.

At work, only a few others had experienced the blackout, as it was fairly localized. I heard stories of what had happened, but didn’t look them up myself until today.

Distraught being

As it turns out, a distraught person – drunk – had been hurtling south on Grand in her 1999 Chevy van, sending several cars to the shoulder or otherwise off the road. One of these cars swerved off the road and rolled down a hill into a power pole. The impact broke the insulators holding up the high-voltage wires, and they fell to the ground. The driver was trapped in his overturned vehicle by these high voltage wires until the utility company was able to de-energize them about an hour later. He was – amazingly – unharmed.

The police caught up with the “crazy” lady a little while later. They had to take her to a hospital to get treated for minor injuries before arresting her.

distraught being One of the news sources published a Sheriff’s Office photo of the lady – from some earlier incident. I edited it down to just the face for this post: This is the face of a very distraught being.

 

Other News

That same weekend I received a portion of an instrument panel from a DC-8 aircraft. This was one of the first jet airliners to be mass-produced during the 1960s. I bought it for the aluminum panel and to see how it was constructed. It arrived a bit the worse for wear, but I took all the parts off it and cleaned it up, and it looks promising. I think I will make a battery charger with it.

DC-8 panel detail

DC-8 panel detail, showing the registration number of the aircraft it is from and its most recent “SELCAL” radio message code.

The deer return

This afternoon walking home, I saw a family of deer grazing in the field below the “industrial park” where I work. It looked like a buck and three doe. Probably the same deer that were here last year. They somehow managed to live down in the wetlands that the bike/jogging trail goes through, just the other side of Grand. That’s where the electric poles are, too; like the one that guy ran into.

I wasn’t sure they would return. Last year they were here earlier. I remember seeing them in the same place when it was still snowy. They lost one of their young to road kill that year. I know: I saw the dead deer myself. It was at the “vacant lot” where I took many of my wildflower pictures. So I thought they might go somewhere else this year. But there probably aren’t too many other places to choose from for these deer. They do have to be watchful, and not only for cars. I’ve seen coyotes in this area, too; though its the rabbits who usually suffer when the coyotes come through.

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Power Down in Pullman

6 December 2013

At about 9AM this morning (a Friday) power went out on the factory floor at SEL in Pullman. I thought some might be interested in a few of the technical implications of such an event.

Part of the plant contains equipment that is very problematic if it loses power unexpectedly. That part is protected by a local generator run by a diesel motor, and power to it was restored immediately.

However, that left a large part of the building without electricity.

Cold weather!

The weather here for the last few days has been very cold, never getting above freezing. The low this morning was about 1° F (-17 C) with an expected high of 18. This weekend it will get even colder before a “warm” front moves in next week and causes more rain or snow.

Air temperature and water vapor holding capacity

Very cold air can hold practically no water vapor, whereas hot air can hold a lot. This means that “humid” cold air is actually very dry. If freezing air with a relative humidity of near 100% were heated 40° F it would become very dry air, with a relative humidity of perhaps 25%. Our frigid air currently has a relative humidity of around 70%, which translates to less than 10% at a comfortable room temperature.

Making an ESD safe factory

Electrostatic buildup is a much bigger problem in dry air than in humid air. In a modern electronics factory, maintaining a humidity level of about 40% is an important part of minimizing damage to parts as they are assembled onto boards and the boards get assembled into equipment and tested.

Special equipment is installed to (usually) add water vapor to the factory air to keep it ESD (electrostatic discharge) safe. When our part of the factory lost power, the humidifiers went off, and the air started drying out. By lunch time the humidity had dropped to about 10%. We had lost our ESD-safe work environment. The factory was halted and workers sent home, as it will take about 2 hours after power is restored (which happened around 1PM) for the humidity to be brought back up to a safe level.

“Safe grid” no buzzword

That’s what you call a “negative economic impact” from a power outage.

About 4 hours of production time wasted, even though the power was restored in the middle of the day.

If the outage had lasted longer or been more extensive, it could have knocked out building heating and caused a real human problem, as has been caused by winter storms in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Most infrastructure on this planet has not been built with the idea that weather or other environmental hazards would ever be a major problem. Though this seems a bit fanciful at this point, it is where things stand. If things get real bad on the planetary surface, much of our infrastructure could be destroyed, even if our bodies survive. Evidently, something other than sustainability was on the minds of those who designed and built most parts of our current environment, including the power grid and the generating stations and substations that go with it.

The more sustainable portions of our infrastructure are usually kept secret, as you can imagine them being overrun if some sort of panic ever happened on the surface, if everyone knew where they were. This gives those who do know a short-term advantage. But it’s only short-term.

This planet, as a human society, will eventually pay for the shortsightedness of ourselves and our leaders in creating an environment where instant gratification is much more important than long-term survival. It would be one thing if we took this risk with full cognizance of what we were getting ourselves into. But it didn’t go down that way.

Many of the survivors of the last great cataclysm on earth carried forward lifestyles of (by our standards) severe poverty in order to preserve some semblance of a balance between short-term and long-term survival.

Certain groups took another approach, thinking that material technologies could protect them from any important threat. Though these groups effectively “conquered” the “primitive” groups, our sense of balance was also lost.

We now possess knowledge that could change the future outlook considerably.
We know:
1) We are actually eternal spiritual beings playing the “meat body” game as a sort of pastime.
2) We are not alone in this universe. Many other societies exist out there that are struggling with the same problems we are struggling with.
3) Physical technologies exist or could be developed that would far surpass what we now have and could, for all intents and purposes, solve the survivability problems of meat bodies if we wanted to. Contacts with those other (“ET”) societies have made us aware of this.
4) For the first time, spiritual technologies are also available to us that could enable us to gain full control over our own criminal tendencies and so solve our greatest survival problem, which was: Destruction from within.

Thus a “New Era” is possible on earth and many other locations, if we decide to embrace these various technologies and use them together to improve conditions and move the whole game up to a higher level. If we grab for the material technologies and neglect the spiritual ones, our game could dive to new lows. It’s really all up to us whether “power down” becomes a permanent condition or a thing of the past.