Aging power gri…

Aging power grid on overload as U.S. demands more electricity

 
They began to bend in the roaring wind, then their steel girders snapped like twigs, the towers toppled and the lights went out.
Minutes before the windstorm arrived to pummel the Washington area on June 29, it swept east through West Virginia, crushing three electrical transmission towers that are a tiny part of an intricate power grid that’s supposed to keep the lights on in America.
The term “grid” suggests a certain uniformity to the power system’s structure, but the network more closely resembles a patchwork quilt stitched together to cover a rapidly expanding nation.
The United States doesn’t yet face the critical shortage of power that has left more than 600 million people in India without electricity this week
But the U.S. grid is aging and stretched to capacity. More often the victim of decrepitude than the forces of nature, it is beginning to falter. Experts fear failures that caused blackouts in New York, Boston and San Diego may become more common as the voracious demand for power continues to grow. They say it will take a multibillion-dollar investment to avoid them.
“I like to think of our grid much like a water system, and basically all of our pipes are at full pressure now,” said Otto J. Lynch, vice president of Wisconsin-based Power Line Systems, “and if one of our pipes bursts and we have to shut off that line, that just increases the pressure on our remaining pipes until another one bursts, and next thing you know, we’re in a catastrophic run and we have to shut the whole water system down.”
India’s blackout was a power generation problem: It is saddled with aging coal power plants and facing resistance to new nuclear plants. This week, several plants closed suddenly and the lights went out. Although the United States will need more power plants to meet the demands of a growing population, the most immediate threat is that the delivery system will continue to fail.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/aging-power-grid-on-overload-as-us-demands-more-electricity/2012/08/01/gJQAB5LDQX_print.html

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