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Tracking the 2003 Northeast Power Grid Blackout
9/27/2013

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Genscape's real-time monitors detect the cascade of the 2003 blackout with the loss of Homer City.
Genscape’s real-time monitors detect the cascade of the 2003 blackout with the loss of Homer City.

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David Ashton
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Blogger
Power Grid blackouts
David Ashton   9/28/2013 8:54:55 PM
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"Genscape's proprietary power monitors .....detected the blackout cascade with the loss of Homer City."

There wouldn't have been a certain Mr Simpson involved in this would there??

Ona a more serious note, I remember a blackout we had once in Zimbabwe that affected most of the country and I think parts of the surrounding countries.  The whole grid went unstable and the generators were loaded down till they almost stopped.  I remember the fluorescent lights flashing slower and slower until they got down to around 1 flash a second, and I knew something was seriously wrong.  I think it took over a day to get it all back on again.

 

Robotics Developer
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Rookie
Re: off topic
Robotics Developer   9/28/2013 6:27:23 PM
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Here in New England, we often times lose power during the winter due to snow, ice, tree damage to the power lines.  Even during the summer there is the all too frequent car accident taking out a power pole.  The one thing that I noticed a number of years ago was the NE power companies did not seem to be doing the line maintance: trimming back overhanging branches, cutting failing trees down and as a result we had many more outages.  It seems that they would rather wait until some nasty weather conditions do the trimming for them only to have to get their poor crews out in the most ugly weather.  Recently, they came to their senses and started doing the trimming and cleaning up of overhanging branches now we enjoy much better and more reliable power!  This was a business decision not operator error (except of course cars hitting poles!) that contributed to both the number and duration of power outages.

_hm
User Rank
CEO
Plannned blackout for future
_hm   9/28/2013 4:54:29 PM
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I remember 10 days of balckout. It was unique experience and I suggest planned blackout for a week in future. I made so many new friends during this blackout!

 

Caleb Kraft
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Blogger
Re: Blaming the operator is a Cop-Out
Caleb Kraft   9/28/2013 9:48:22 AM
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this is so very true in so many areas. I can't count the number of times I've delt with programmers and web designers that couldn't wrap their head around the fact that the end user shouldn't conform to their specific and peculiar way of doing things. When the majority of people find an issue in your system, it doesn't matter if you think it is correct... it isn't. 

Sanjib.A
User Rank
CEO
Re: off topic
Sanjib.A   9/27/2013 11:46:00 PM
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I understand the huge impact of this kind of massive power failure during winter (especially during a snow storm) there in Canada & NA, because this is a very rare event and usually people are not well prepared for this kind of scenarios,

On a lighter note...I live in the southern part of India, winter is very pleasent here and can survive without power for a few days...and moreover, we are used to experience regular power cuts :) (due to supply-demand gap)

steve.taranovich
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Blogger
Re: Reliability and Security
steve.taranovich   9/27/2013 7:27:12 PM
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Ah yes DrFPGA---with more sophisticated technology comes more creative hackers who love the challenge of defeating the security of a system. This will surely be one of the most daunting tasks that we will face as we enter this next phase of a smarter Grid system.

DrFPGA
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Blogger
Reliability and Security
DrFPGA   9/27/2013 5:11:47 PM
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To me the big issue going forward isn't reliability as much as security. With the move toward automated metering and control the chance of a 'hack' that tricks the system into thinking something is going wrong seems to be a much more important potential root cause of future failures...

rich.pell
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Blogger
Re: How R-T can this be?
rich.pell   9/27/2013 2:56:21 PM
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"How real-time can this be if it takes 10 years to surface?"

Last month was the 10-year anniversary of the blackout, so it's not a case of "surfacing" but of looking back.



Some Guy
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Manager
Blaming the operator is a Cop-Out
Some Guy   9/27/2013 2:35:39 PM
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In my vast experience working quality problems, if you are blaming the operator or training or documentation, you have failed to understand the problem or take corrective action seriously. It's usually a cover-up for inadequate procedures or systems. If you have designed the procedures and systems correctly, they are resilient to non-malicious operator actions.

Blaming the operator, documentation or training, especially first and only, is the hallmark of an immature quality & reliability approach. It's a cop-out to fix the blame instead of fix the problem.

 

Some Guy
User Rank
Manager
Re: software bug or improper documentation/training?
Some Guy   9/27/2013 2:25:39 PM
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NERC did a full analysis of the failure. You can find it on the web at http://www.nerc.com/docs/docs/blackout/NERC_Final_Blackout_Report_07_13_04.pdf.

Like most aircraft accidents and Three Mile Island, it was an accumlation of a bunch of "little" errors and loss of situational awareness by the operators that led to it. Behind it was also a poorly managed energy provider -- what they refer to in 8D problem solving as the root cause of the root cause.

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