Researchers Claim US Electrical Grid Is On The Brink Of Collapse

Researchers Claim US Electrical Grid Is On The Brink Of Collapse

Ten years after a major blackout affected at least 50 million people in the northeastern US and some parts of Canada, physicists in Israel and the United States are calling attention to the fact that it could happen again, and that its affects next time could be even worse.

The studies have revolved around spatial networks and their inherent flaw of relying too heavily on central points, or nodes. On the surface, creating a power grid based on geography makes complete sense - at least if you believe neatness and order is the best way to do things. Here, though, spatial networks rely on a number of critical nodes, and if one of those happens to fail, it'll lead to a blackout. According to these researchers, it could also lead to a cascading effect which ends with a complete collapse.


Flickr: Michael Kappel

This is essentially what occurred with the blackout ten years ago. A number of transmission lines went down over the course of a single hour, and thanks to some critical error, it eventually lead to rolling blackouts which headed towards the east coast.

With the problems that spatial networks can cause, at least one researcher believes that randomly-structured networks is the best implementation for something like a power grid, where nodes that go down will result in a degradation instead of a complete blackout. In this sort of event, workers might have an opportunity to remedy the situation before it gets worse, rather than have to deal with a catastrophic failure under intense pressure.

It should be stressed that this is all based on theory, and while it sounds reasonable enough, other researchers have a hard time buying into it. And if randomness for a power grid is in fact the smarter route to take, it's hard to imagine that anything will be done to the current power grid structure given the immense cost it'd undoubtedly require. And that's a bit scary.

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say good bye to power good thing i have a abundance of squirrels

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Well..considering how old it is, all of the electricity that is used, and all of the strong storms the Northeast been putting up with lately...

Oh? and did anyone mention we're going into the heart of hurricane season, and winter is right around the corner as well?

Good thing I bought that Kerosene heater for Hurricane Sandy last year. (I'm from Pennsylvania.)

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I was just watching Doomsday Preppers on Nat Geo. Maybe they're not as nutty as they seem after all?

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«And if randomness for a power grid is in fact the smarter route to take, it's hard to imagine that anything will be done to the current power grid structure given the immense cost it'd undoubtedly require. And that's a bit scary.» Any idea just how much that «immense cost» would amount to, Rob ? Or how it compares with the costs of yet another overt US war in Southwest Asia, which seems to be in the offing ?...

Henri

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