PV electricity-lines-grid-security-terrorists

Published on March 23rd, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan

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Terrorists Could Black Out US Electric Grids With “Simple” 1-2-3 — Developing More Solar Would Increase Grid Security

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March 23rd, 2014 by Zachary Shahan
 

electric lines

A recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission analysis finds that it would be fairly easy for terrorists to knock out all the electric grids in the US. And not just for a short time, but for about a year and a half!

“Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer,” FERC officials wrote in a memo for a former FERC chair.

John Upton at Grist further summarizes: “Crippling America’s old-fashioned electrical grid for a long period of time would be disturbingly easy. Saboteurs need only wait for a heat wave, and then knock out a factory plus a small number of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations that are scattered throughout the country.”

Oh, but surely these substations are heavily protected, right? Umm…

From a Wall Street Journal article on this story:

In last April’s attack at PG&E Corp.’s Metcalf substation, gunmen shot 17 large transformers over 19 minutes before fleeing in advance of police. The state grid operator was able to avoid any blackouts.

The Metcalf substation sits near a freeway outside San Jose, Calif. Some experts worry that substations farther from cities could face longer attacks because of their distance from police. Many sites aren’t staffed and are protected by little more than chain-link fences and cameras.

Holy yikes!!

electricity-lines-grid-security-terrorists

Now, I think solar enthusiasts know what one very helpful solution would be. And if you didn’t before, you probably caught it in the title above. It is: a very distributed electricity system. For example, an electricity system that uses a ton of distributed solar power systems (e.g., rooftop solar).

Microgrids would be especially helpful and protecting against any such attacks. High military officials have been telling us this for years.

So, let’s get on it! Let’s install a ton of solar power, and let’s get moving on microgrids of the 21st century.

(By the way, FERC was not too pleased with the Wall Street Journal covering this sensitive topic. But the fact of the matter is: we need to develop a more secure grid, and maybe we need the public to push for that.)

Photo Credits: tieden / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND & Abdulelah_Qutub / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Mad Ross

    Grid / substation security made easy

    1) Quit building substations to the engineering calculations. On all new power stations use modular substations, use

    multiple standard 10, 20, and 50 MVA units and so you can keep a few
    spares on the ground. The nice thing about 10 and 20 MVA units are they
    fit on standard low boys and do not require moving permits. This saves
    money since you can add capacity over time instead of building to the
    final forecast.

    2) Physical barriers, hardening, and
    camouflage. “I wonder who owns that big old barn up on the ridge.” I
    found this also makes permitting easier.

    3) Keep the blueprints secret. They keep showing up in public permitting documents.

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