New Ways to Deal with Old Problems

August 14, 2003, will go down as the evening of the biggest blackout in U.S. history. Over 55 million customers lost power across the Midwest and Northeast U.S., extending into parts of Canada. Looking back 10 years after the events of that night, a recent www.toledoblade.com article asks what have regional power companies learned and how have they changed the way they do things to keep such an event from happening again?

New Technology Leads the Way

One such area that has seen a major change since the events of that night 10 years ago lies in the technology used. This includes the building of new state-of-the-art facilities to help companies involved in the 2003 blackout maintain control of the ever-changing demands of the nation’s power grid, as well as monitor any problems and gain control of them before they can become bigger than they need to be. In addition to constant surveillance of the power grid, operators now have state-of-the-art equipment to help them while they monitor.

The Big Picture

When monitoring a power grid, it helps to have an overall idea of what is going on in the surrounding regions. Part of what contributed to the 2003 blackout was a general ignorance of what was going on at other critical junctures of the power grid. This led to failures on the grid’s part, which led to a cascading failure of over 100 power plants. Today, technology has been developed to prevent this. And while such technology can’t account for all eventualities, it can help prevent what happened before from happening the way it did again.

Backup Plan

Another crucial area that has seen great improvement is in the enactment of a backup plan. Now if a facility fails, or there is any question as to what is going on with the grid, companies have backup facilities, which can also act as training facilities, to help them determine a plan of action and implement it

An Improved Grid

Another area includes taking some of the burden out of the hands of the human controllers. With processes becoming faster and faster, it is paramount to develop ways to keep up with the increased load. One way of doing this is through automation, and future facilities should see machines taking over more of the everyday switching that human operators perform now. And while the human element will probably never be taken out of the operation of the power grid completely, machine automation should make it easier to prevent blackouts as happened on August 14, 2003, from happening again.


For more information about the lessons learned from the 2003 power blackout, visit: http://www.toledoblade.com/Energy/2013/08/04/10-years-ago-55-million-people-were-left-without-power-Utility-experts-say-repeat-is-unlikely.html