3 ways to prevent the next large-scale blackout


Hurricane Ida, One of the strongest storms Set an American record, Intensify so rapidly Before the attack on New Orleans, city officials did not have enough time to issue a mandatory evacuation order. The limited exit route from the city means that when the storm comes, people will be trapped on the highway. On Monday, people living in the city and surrounding areas were hit by strong winds and heavy rain at a speed of 150 miles an hour. Nearly 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi were cut off.By Thursday afternoon, amid the blazing heat wave, the utility company Entergy, which provides services to most of the region, reported that only 18% of its system Has been restored.

At the same time, stronger and wetter storms like Ada have exposed the dangerous weaknesses of the U.S. power grid. The clearest way to prevent the worsening of the effects of climate change involves people becoming more and more dependent on it—for example, by replacing gasoline-powered cars. Into an electric car, or use renewable electricity to heat the home. Experts say that as electricity demand grows, the way utilities and policy makers address grid resilience must change, which is largely reactive rather than preventive.

“The reality is that our infrastructure was built for the past climate, and we continue to rebuild it through incremental improvements,” said Roshi Nateghi, assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue University. “And it won’t cut it.”

Resilience is a slippery word. There is no universally accepted way to define or measure it. Experts say that it is unrealistic to expect that the grid will never lose power, but Nateghi and others point out that there are at least three different solutions that can help our power system withstand stronger storms and ensure community access in the event of inevitable power outages The minimum service required to stay safe.

The first started with what we call the old, incremental way of thinking—focusing on the physical infrastructure that makes up the grid. The scale of damage caused by Ada is very serious. Entergy reports that in its transmission system (high-voltage poles and wires that transport electricity from power plants to distribution lines that serve customer communities), more than 200 wires and 200 substations have been out of service due to the storm. In its power distribution system, approximately 10,000 telephone poles, 13,000 wires, and 2,000 transformers were damaged or destroyed.

There are many utilities that can be done to minimize this damage during storms. They can design the system to withstand stronger winds by using stronger wires supported by poles that are more closely spaced. They can use concrete and steel instead of wooden poles, and are diligent in pruning nearby trees. But Nateghi said that these types of repairs are piecemeal and, in the long run, may be more expensive than the often-argued high-cost up-front solution-burying wires in the ground. “People always think it’s really expensive,” Nateghi said, saying that when you look at the full cost of these disasters, many of which reach billions of dollars, it may not seem that expensive. Buried lines are not affected by wind and can prevent flooding. The disadvantage is that they are more difficult to repair.

Logan Burke, executive director of the Affordable Energy Alliance, a non-profit organization based in New Orleans, said that the issue of laying lines in New Orleans has been discussed for decades. Part of the problem is that the cost of burying the line may be passed on to the customer through the customer’s electricity bill, and the city and the entire state of Louisiana are at extreme poverty and high energy burden levels. Half of the low-income households in New Orleans spend more than 10% of their income on energy. According to the 2016 report, A quarter of expenditures exceed 19%, while the national average energy burden is 3.5%.

“The hesitation about thread embedding is, how do we do this in a way that people can afford?” Burke said. She said that unless the Federal Infrastructure Act or the Settlement Act provides additional funding for such projects, it is not an option for Louisiana at all.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate in early August contains $65 billion for the power grid, with US$10 billion to US$12 billion are earmarked for the construction of new transmission linesThe Biden administration also announced last month, Provide nearly 5 billion U.S. dollars Through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s project, the community’s resilience to extreme weather will be improved.

The second possible solution is less expensive than wire embedding, and utilities can take advantage of this today. It uses predictive computer modeling to determine where the biggest weaknesses in their systems are in order to conduct these more strategically. Progressive improvement. Nateghi and other academic researchers have Public method Use weather models of climate impact and translate them into potential infrastructure damage to predict which areas are most likely to lose power. As part of the PhD research, Nateghi worked with utility companies in the southeast to incorporate such models into their plans and stated that they could reduce costs and perform better in future storms. Farzad Ferdowsi, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Louisiana who has worked with Entergy, agrees that one of the things the company can do to increase resilience is more comprehensive modeling.

But in any case, the grid sometimes fails in one way or another. This is why Burke believes it is more important to shift the conversation around flexibility from utilities to people. “We think it is very important to consider how to help people stay safe in their homes or shelters, including distributed solar power and storage,” she said. New Orleans has a lot of rooftop solar, but most of them are not paired with batteries, which will allow it to provide electricity in the event of a failure of the larger grid. Burke envisions homes and community organizations, such as libraries, churches, and schools, with solar energy and storage systems that can be connected to form a “community reliability corridor.” They will be able to operate as a microgrid, independent of Entergy’s system, and allow communities to obtain cooling and other basic power needs after the storm.

Entergy has Forcibly oppose the proposal Allowing the use of more locally produced and controlled electricity in New Orleans, rather than persuading the city council to allow it to build a new gas-fired power plant in the city, is on the grounds that it will improve recovery capabilities during storms. Due to damage to the transmission and distribution lines, the plant did not maintain power supply during Ada. The company was able to start up and power a small part of eastern New Orleans on Wednesday morning, but most areas of the city are still experiencing power outages, and Entergy has not provided an estimate of when power will be restored.

Power outage in New Orleans as of Thursday morning, September 2

“We hope to complete the assessment of all damages today, and then we can start providing customers with estimated recovery times,” said Deanna Rodriguez, President and CEO of Entergy New Orleans. At the press conference on Thursday morning.

Entergy can obtain a certain rate of return through large capital investments such as power plants, and locally produced solar energy will eat into its profits.Like in other cities, Burke said that in the past month, she heard a lot Appeal to public power companies This will not be subject to profit-motivated decisions. But she is not very optimistic about the future of public power in New Orleans.

“There is only one Fortune 500 company in New Orleans, and that is Entergy,” she said. “They have political power and provide funding for many non-profit organizations. The kind of power they have is unparalleled in the state. Therefore, the municipalization movement faces huge obstacles.”


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