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I listened to President Obama speak today then breaking news millions loose power in the southwest USA. Somehow my wife and I still have electric but nobody around us does??
I haven't watched the news, practicing again! I may have to go to the Betty Ford Clinic. I am addicted to this violin.
What happened in the Southwest to cause the outage? The system is pretty stressed out. Even with the drop in commercial load due to the slowdown in the economy. All it takes is one transmission line failure or a large substation transformer to fail. That can start a chain reaction as the rest of the system tries to carry the load. Transformers and substations begin to overload and take themselves off the grid, increasing the load on the remaining equipment. It can happen very rapidly and spread to a huge area, affecting many utility companies. Most of the time they do not even know where to begin looking for the problem. Operational logs have to be studied to discover the origin, then a plan put together to bring the system back up without overloading it. Think of the movie "Apollo 13" on a huge scale with lots of differing opinions from several different companies trying to assign blame. FUN!
I was worried that this was going to be a political discussion.
I meant to ask,
Who is Obama?
There are time when I am embarrassed to work in the electrical power field. Our nation needs a huge amount of upgrading in the power transmission and distribution network. Sadly our country and our government do not think long term. Everything is short term fixes. Band aids and baling wire. The only time our government thinks long term is when deciding to delay paying debt.
Power transmission and distribution lines are very overloaded in the summer. A rule of thumb for distribution transformers is 200% loading for 4 to 6 hours a day. When everyone goes to bed and the load drops the transformer can cool off. This is fine in average temps, but when it is in the 100's for weeks at a time it really stresses the system, things don't cool all the way down. They start into the peak load a little warmer than the day before. It gets worse each day. Heat and resistance are tied in a circle, heat increases resistance which increases heat, round and round it goes until a transformer fails. If it is a large substation transformer, the load it was carrying is shifted to the rest of the system. The problem is, there is no reserve capacity. The rest of the system is already overloaded. Trying to restore power after a large outage is a nightmare as well. Hundreds of manual switches must be opened. A feeder circuit is energized and load is added gradually and monitored. The process is halted if load is too great and time is needed to allow the load to drop before adding more load. It is a balancing act. A house of cards if you will. One day if we are not careful, we could loose most of the grid starting with something simple like removing a piece of monitoring equipment.
(note, I edited this post and added the paragraph above)
You have to listen between the lines. A worker removed a piece of monitoring equipment. I makes it sound like this worker woke up that morning and said to him or herself, "I think I will take the __________ alarm off the 154-19 transmission bus tie today" That is not how it works. Workers are directed, mainly by engineers. I would guess this piece of monitoring equipment was telling the engineers and the ISO (Independent System Operator an entity that ties transmission lines together for separate companies.) something was wrong. They could not figure out what was wrong and therefor called for the removal of the monitoring equip. I have no idea what type of monitor was involved but I have seen some pretty goofy stuff in 25 years in the trade. We had a panel in one of our 345KV bulk substations with a hand written note on it that stated: Do not bump or brush into panel, #12345 OCB (oil circuit breaker, big as a house) will operate. It would open the breaker and drop half of St Louis Metro area. This sign was on this panel for over three years. They finally replaced the panel last year after I texted pictures of it to one of the VP's
Thanks for all the info on our power system. I was thinking when we were arriving from Frankfort to Ft Laud looking over the State at night with all those lights how much we consume. And lights need very little power compared to our AC's and other products.
PS. I like your new signature picture of yourself
I always told my kids when we flew at night, "See all the streetlights? Linemen hung those."
People kept asking what is under the mask, now you know!
Here is a pretty neat video of some fellows working to keep the lights on. Very well done, I like how they filtered out most of the helicopter noise.
Before getting to know you Dave, I thought that the line guys were like the FP&L guys around here that come 6 guys to a truck, usually 2 trucks, blocking the whole street. They point to the lines and discuss them. Then they take a coffee break at the truck. Maybe one worker does some real work while the others talk about it. They may actually be doing some real work but I get suspicious when I see them going at it.
I now have a great respect for what you do. How far are your boundaries?
Thank you, but you haven't seen me work.
We do alot of street blocking, narrow streets, if you get in the grass with the edge of your tires, the people call in and complain. It is a fine line. We have generally a three man crew, two trucks. Most of our work is in the back yard, lots of climbing.
It is necessary to discuss the job, go over safe work practices, voltage involved, energy source controls, nearest clearing device in case of emergency, address of the job, in case of emergency, work zone protection, signs cones flagmen if need. PPE, for the job at hand. Then the condition of the existing poles needs to be determined. We need to look at all the hardware and equipment to assure ourselves nothing weird is going to happen. Sometimes a storm will damage structures and it is actually the wire holding the pole up. If you climb up and cut something down, the pole could fall.
High voltage electricity is merciless. Low voltage, high current arc flashes can be lethal up to 10 feet away. I know several men killed, some good friends, some I had only met. I know others missing limbs and horribly burnt. The most recent was a young journeyman lineman. He was 22 at the time of the accident and had just completed a 3 year apprenticeship. He was in basket truck and was removing some hardware from a pole that was being replaced. He did not have on his 20,000 volt rubber gloves. He had ducked under a 7200 volt wire, he did not cover the wire with rubber protective hoses. He removed the hardware, dropped it to the ground and was ducking back under the powerline. He placed his hand on a grounded piece of equipment and the back of his neck contacted the 7200 volt line. I won't go into a lot of detail, but he lived. Lost his arm, actually destroyed some of the bones in his neck, referred to as 4th degree burns by some doctors. This is a young man with a wife and a small child. He knew better. Apprentices know more about the safety rules than the older Journeymen. The rules are always changing, the new guys only need to know the rules they were taught.
A very wise man once told me, If you take every electrical contact accident and put rubber gloves on the victim and run the events like they happened. 99% would not even know they were close to death. I have been doing that for 20 years and know of only one case where the man had everything on and everything covered, but he fell onto an energized transformer and knocked the rubber protective blankets off the transformer. Another young Journeyman.
Then again the guys from FP&L say it stands for F___ing People & Loving it! Sometimes the crew is not really working, just looking for a place to hide to take a break. Maybe finished a job early and it is too late to start another job.
What's white and sleeps three? FP&L trucks! ( I don't know what color they are, but everybody is going to white)
I forgot to answer your last question, my service center covers Western St. Louis County. We have the largest territory of the 5 Metro area service centers geographically speaking. Our Berkeley service center is smaller but has more electric meters per square mile. Our service center serves just over 400,000 customers. A lot of the area is very wealthy, 2 and 3 million dollar homes. These people are completely out of touch with the real world and the common man. In cases of severe storms we can be sent anywhere. Utility companies have what is called a mutual assistance agreement. I am not sure how it is funded but we help each other out. We sent crews to New Jersey for Hurricane Irene. They spent 12 days restoring power to the good people of NJ. You would think all power systems are the same, not even close. Voltages, construction methods, energy controls, switching schemes, automated voltage regulation equipment, work rules, clearance distances, all differ from company to company and IBEW local to IBEW local. Working exhausted in a strange place far from home can be a little daunting. I fall back on "The Lineman's Prayer" alot. It goes like this:
Please God, don't let me f__k up.
It helps me to focus, think what could happen here. We are all one clock tick away from eternity.
I also forgot to mention I have great respect for you as well. It amazes me that you have all that knowledge and skill in your mind and body. I have the same physical make up, but cannot do the things you do so effortlessly. I watch you play a small riff, while speaking and describing what you are doing, and I am humbled. How does he do that? Pretty cool. I respect and admire anyone who does their job to the best of their ability, and finds joy in their work. If I cannot have fun at work, and learn something, I will just stay home. Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him. (that is from an episode of "All In The Family")
The general public might think there is too much inactivity at a site but this is only in accordance with established safety procedures.
Sometimes it is laziness. But for the most part you are correct. Sometimes we just finished a job and are taking a break. Sometimes we are waiting for the Dispatcher to give us switching orders. Or waiting for switching to be done. At times like these, I will gladly catch 40 winks if possible.
There are work crews around here that avoid working all day and they are very healthy (with the right sun screen and enough flavored water)
I must take some things in the right attitude having been the recipient of 30,000 volts in the knee ( only 1/2 amp) and a later performance with 1000 volts at 10 amps involving both hands. My left hand had to be reconstructed during a month stay in the hospital. Maybe I would never have played the violin if things didn't work out. I was destined to play ( then why am I not famous ?)
All's well that ends well
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.