SYSTEMIC RISKS

9 Electric Power Grid Substations Will Bring It All Down

three-power-grids-in-the-united-states

Attackers could bring down the entire power grid of the United States in just a few moves, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Federal analysis says sabotage of just nine key substations is sufficient for a broad power outage from New York to Los Angeles.


 

The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs launch a coordinated attack and knock out just nine of the country’s 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a hot summer day while the systems are under a strained load, according to a previously unreported federal analysis.

The study’s results have been known for months to select people in federal agencies, Congress and the White House, but were reported publicly for the first time Wednesday (MAR-12). The WSJ did not publish a list of the 30 most critical substations identified by the FERC study.

The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation’s three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse, people familiar with the research said.

Electric substations are critical to the functionality of the electric grid. Their transformers boost the voltage to very high levels which enables efficient transmission across long distances. The levels are then brought back down to usable levels by similar transformers. On a hot summer day, with the grid operating at high capacity, FERC found that taking out the right amount of substations could lead to a national blackout lasting months.

One particularly troubling memo reviewed by the Journal described a scenario in which a highly-coordinated but relatively small scale attack could send the country into a long-term literal dark age. “Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer,” the memo said.

Informational Source: The Wall Street Journal

 

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The fact that the mainstream media is reporting this, is itself ‘telling’.

If we were to experience an event as described here, tens of millions would perish in today’s modern ‘dependent’ society. Breaking out of our normalcy bias and preparing ones-self for such a catastrophe would be life altering, with a tremendous dedication of time and resources to adapt a fundamental change to how and where we live our lives.

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18 Comments

  1. The entire system? Really? So the power plants would not be able to transmit power to anything? I do believe that the entire system could be down for days, that regions could be down for weeks, and that the entire system would not be back up for months under the worst possible conditions. Under this scenario I can definitely see terrible things happening in certain cities and areas, but I fail to see how the entire country could suffer without electricity for long.

    Only by waiting to bring things back up together is why so much of the east coast was blacked out for several days a few years back. But if push came to shove, what would prevent areas from coming back online separate from the grid?

    1. Good point. The issue lies with a select few transformers that, if damaged by whatever or by power cascades, they are difficult to replace. They are not an “off the shelf” type of item. Depending upon how many of the critical transformers get damaged, it could take +/-18 months before you could get replacements. So you are correct in one aspect in that parts of the grid could be restored but some areas could be without power for a long time.

      1. It’s true that large transformers are custom. Generators, even large ones, are not.

        With the number being so low, I wonder if these are used between the three grids.

    2. Look at it like this. All of our electric hardware is designed to run off 120VAC or 240VAC mains. If you take a computer and supply it with 90VAC it probably wont work, it’s internal transformer ratio will now be off.

      The electric grid has to maintain very specific conditions to remain functional. If you damage enough hardware it will make it impossible to maintain those conditions against a normal load. This stuff is all computer controlled and dependent on central management, you can’t just add a bunch of generators and fix things, plus how is the Diesel and Gasoline going to get around to keep all these generators running?

      What we really need is a hardened, centralized electrical grid with double or triple the hardware redundancy you see on airliners. You don’t do things in 3s, you do it in 6s or 9s.

  2. I love these articles….. Why don’t we give them the means to do it since we have already shown them how…. Unbelieveable…???

    1. On the contrary, I find it informative to read about threats which could badly affect our lives. It is good to know and is motivation to be prepared (at least to the extent as best we can in our own ways). We mostly do not hear about these things in the media becasue it would upset the fuzzy warm feelings of the sheeple.

  3. This is a horrific thought. Millions of lives will be lost because of the elements not to mention the disease from not being able to flush and no water. So many ways to destroy and take lives. Why can they not invent to prosper instead of investing in death?

  4. This has always been true and always will be true. There is no “hardening” of the system that will or could change the basic vulnerability of a large power distribution system in a very large country. We could spend billions and billions and reduce that vunerability by 1/2 of 1% or so and somehow I think that is the underlying goal. This problem really cannot be fixed. But keep in mind it would be a blackout not the end of the world The system would get fixed and power restored in a few days for most people and perhaps a little longer to get to 100%.

    1. Wrong. FERCs own report says months or longer. Methinks they have a better clue than Joe Sixpack.

      1. Of course FERC is a government agency and government agencies never lie to get big budget increases right?
        I think the worst case scenario would be destroying the transfomers and other sub-station infrastructer so completely that none of it could be saved. Ezplosives or smething similar might do this but simply shooting up a bunch of transformers does not. In the less damage kind of shutdown scenario repairs could be made quickly. So lets assume the worst case where the entire substation is reduced to ashes. Immediately the utility workers would reroute most of the lines to get the power (because in this scenario power generation facilities remained intact. Meanwhile in the cities affected the power would be rerouted and disconnected such that once limited power was brought back up that hospitals and emergency facilites could be powered first, followed by other critical users until all power was restored. It is ludicrious to assume that it would be an all or nothing situation where 100% of power was simply off for months and perhaps years (as some of the wild eyed pundits insist). In fact some power would be restored within 24 hours, not much perhaps but some and more would be restored every day. In other words the scenario would NOT go as described in the back story which was intentional hyped up to create the belief that we must do something right now, good bad or indifferent we must spend billions right now. As in most things the truth is not what is being told to yu but it’s there if you look for it.

        1. If you take out the transformers, that step the voltage down to sub transmission and lower, no power xfer can occur.

    2. Totally wrong. Spending a trillion here or there on infrastructure wouldn’t matter long term. Obama has ‘borrowed’ more than that for his empire.

  5. One of these sub-stations is here in my county , when I was still working as a Deputy , the same day as 9-11 we were posted at the sub station until we were told to stand down a month later . Also in the county next over is one of the largest gas farms in the southeastern US , we were also sent there as backup for the same time period . Just hope it never happens . Be prepared and ready . Keep your powder dry.

  6. I can share an insight from another paradigm on this scenario. I work for a very large infrastructure construction company that specializes in high voltage transmission line and substation construction. We are very often involved with storm restoration and emergency repairs on large scale jobs. One of the more disturbing things Ive noticed during these scenarios is a complete and total lack of ability to manage these types of projects effectively and quickly. For instance, when we were on the east coast after Sandy did its damage, we spent most of the time sitting in our trucks waiting for work tickets. No-one at National Grid knew what the hell to start on. Many times, we would arrive at an assigned repair area, only to find that the materials we needed had been delivered to the wrong place, or were unavailable. So, if the country had mass transformer failure through whatever means, it could definitely take up to 18 months to get the parts, the grid operator don’t keep that many extra units around. And to exacerbate the situation, in many parts of the larger cities, resources in terms of manpower had to be wasted standing guard over equipment, because even when your there to help, some of the locals will still attempt to rob you or your trucks while you’re working.

  7. I’m pretty sure they would do this in the dead of winter. Summer would be much easier to deal with for the majority of the population. Imagine if this had happened with the winter we just had!

  8. the biggest threat from a long term power outage is the loss of the ability to cool Nuclear reactors ..most are only backed up with generators for 3 days .
    In other words we will be in deep do do.

    1. Nuclear reactors provide their own power and don’t need the grid. The problem at Fukashima, one of them anyway, was that the Japanese apparently don’t know how to make generators that work when wet.

    2. Reactors have manual shutdown controls for just such a situation. Workers manually hand crank the rods back into the core to shut down the reaction in case of accident, loss of power, etc. Once the core is shut down, you don’t need the cooling water or electronic/computer controlled systems. It’s dead until re-activated. They won’t blow up or meltdown.

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