Electric Blackout

* The northeast blackout of 1965 was a significant disruption in the supply of electricity on Tuesday, November 9, 1965, affecting parts of Ontario in Canada and Connecticut…Delaware…Maryland…Massachusetts…New Hampshire…New Jersey…New york…Pennsylvania…Rhode Island…and Vermont in the United States. Over 30 million people and 80,000 square miles were left without electricity for up to 13 hours.

* The cause of the failure was the setting of a protective relay on one of the transmission lines from the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Power Station #2 in Queenstown, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. The safety relay was set to trip if other protective equipment deeper within the Ontario Hydro System failed to operate properly. On a particularly cold November evening, power demands for heating, lighting, and cooking were pushing the electrical system to near its peak capacity. Transmission lines heading into southern Ontario were heavily loaded. The safety relay had been misprogrammed, and it did what it had been asked to do: disconnect under the loads perceived. As a result, at 5:16 Eastern Time, a small variation of power originating from the  Robert Moses generating plant in Lewiston, New York caused the relay to trip, starting an electrical domino effect that envolved numerous power plants in 10 states and parts of Ontario in Canada.


* The US electric grid is often referred to as the greatest machine in the world. It is indeed an engineering marvel: a network of several hundred thousand miles of power lines connect thousands of electric generators to power households and businesses across the contiguous United States. But in the afermath of extreme weather events and human error, we need to ask ourselves, can this machine handle it?


* The US power grid is, in fact, highly fragmented and consists of not one, but three different sections. These are called the Eastern, Western, and ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council Of Texas); three separate power grids that are almost completely isolated from one another, electrically speaking. To make matters worse, the high-voltage, long-distance electric transmission lines that form the backbone of these grids are largely planned in even greater local isolation.

* The European Union and China have continental / national-scale grid development plans; the United States does not!



* Which supports and barriers were in play?

* What were the dynamics?

* Who, or what, won the Tug-of-War?

* Discuss the outcome with your friends and family.

* Use Post #4 as a reference for the dynamics, and the relationships, between supports and barriers.