Blackout report may not be ready for a year

DALLAS, Sept. 11, 2003 -- "There is no excuse for that outage, it should not have happened," Michehl Gent, President of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) told the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Transmission and Distribution conference this week.

A special session was devoted to providing an update on the August 14, 2003 outage that blacked out 62 GW of load in eight northeastern states-largest electrical blackout in US history.

Gent said that restoration of the 62 GW of lost load within 30 hours was "miraculous." He explained that the focus is now on the investigation to find out why it happened and to determine how to improve protection against such outages in the future. The final report of the official investigation into the blackout may not be finished for a year, Gent told the meeting.

"We need to avoid jumping to conclusions," said Gent, "and focus on the facts." He said that it appears the blackout resulted from a "perfect storm" of adverse conditions and events and that the likelihood of another such blackout in the near future is remote. He noted that it took three years to produce a final report on the 1965 blackout, the previous record holder.

The US investigation is being led by the federal Dept. of Energy. Technical analysis is being provided by Gent's organization, which provides voluntary reliability guidelines and standards for the US and part of Canada's high-voltage power delivery system. A key question in the investigation is to determine if transmission system operators complied with NERC's reliability guidelines.

The NERC-led team of engineers is currently collecting information and data records so they can develop a timeline of significant events and identify the root cause of the blackout. Gent said the investigators have obtained about 90% of the relevant data records-several hundred thousand records in all-and reviewed about 40% of them.

So far they've identified about 200 "significant" events. Gent said an investigation of this scope has never been done before. He said the investigation of the last big cascading failure outage in the US, the 1996 western system blackout, was "simple" compared to this one.

Gent said that generating plant outages at the time of the blackout were not a significant contributor. He also said that no equipment-with the exception of one generator-was destroyed as a result of the outage.

One problem the team has encountered is determining the reliability of time stamps on the data records. In order to develop an accurate sequence of events from data from all the companies involved in the outage, the time stamps must be consistent. "Were all computer clocks synchronized," he asked. He noted that if records from digital fault recorders are not linked to a standard time, "it's not worth having them."

If we leap to conclusions, said Gent, we might conclude that all 50 states should be isolated as Texas is. He said he feels it will be better to improve controls for the existing systems and have a more effective compliance program to enforce the rules of operating synchronized high voltage grids. Gent said NERC has been pushing for federal reliability legislation for five years. The legislation currently in Congress does give NERC teeth to better enforce its standards, ranging from exposure of violators to fines. He said the legislation is "very close to being law."

Another expert at the IEEE meeting, Damir Novosel, Senior Vice President of KEMA, said, "We believe protection was big part of this event." He said that protection system failures, misoperation, and outdated settings were involved in 70% of past North American blackout events.

Carson Taylor, principal engineer for transmission operations and planning at Bonneville Power Authority said reviews of four cascading failures in the western interconnection between 1994 and 1996 showed that the best protection is protection depth, "Do everything you can." The biggest western outage was the loss of 30 GW of load in August, 1996. He noted that a common problem in these blackouts was the tripping of generators at a time when they were in no danger of experiencing damage.

A spokesman for American Electric Power reported the sequence of circuit breaker actions on August 14 on the 138-kV and 345-kV lines that connect AEP with First Energy in northern Ohio, noting that the AEP system stayed up for the most part. He said that there was at least one tree contact related failure early in the sequence and a tree contact fire caused by a line sag later in the sequence. He said the AEP system survived because it kept load and generation in balance, its protective equipment operated as designed, operators kept in contact with their neighboring utilities, and the AEP grid is robust.


Sponsored by FLSmidth

Related Articles

Indiana Michigan Power I&M AEP American Electric Power solar power projects substations

I&M plans five solar power projects

Indiana Michigan Power (I&M), a subsidiary of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), said it is planning a $38 million project to build five solar power plants totaling 16 MW of capacity.

AEP picks Oniqua to optimize power gen inventory

American Electric Power (AEP, NYSE: AEP) picked Oniqua Intelligent MRO to optimize its inventory across its generation, transmission and distribution (T&D) assets.

Follow Power Engineering on Twitter

Latest News

Vermont raises concerns about nuclear plant decommissioning

Vermont is asking federal nuclear regulators to require the owner of the Vermont Yankee nucle...

Areva asks NRC to suspend nuclear reactor design review

Areva Inc. has asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend its design certi...

Acciona Windpower opens wind tower production facility in Mexico

Acciona Windpower, a subsidiary of Acciona Group, completed construction on a concrete wind t...

Kentucky Senate passes new nuclear power plant bill

The Kentucky state Senate passed a bill that would end a moratorium on building new nuclear r...

Bills would guarantee dominance by 2 big Michigan utilities

Michigan would end 15 years of competition in the electricity market and its 10 percent renew...

SunEdison expands services to include energy storage

SunEdison Inc. (NYSE: SUNE) has acquired the energy storage project origination team from Sol...
 Siemens announces new CEO, Power and Gas

Siemens announces new CEO, Power and Gas

Siemens (NYSE: SI) announced that Willi Meixner will serve as the chief executive officer (CE...

FPSC approves PPA for Chesapeake Utilities to receive energy from CHP facility

The Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) has approved a 20-year power purchase agreement ...

Power Engineering Current Issue

01/01/2015
Volume 119, Issue 1
1501pe-cover-lg

Products Showcase

Dynamic Fluoride Ion cleaning DFIC of industrial natural gas turbines Hi-Tech Furnace Systems

Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning of IGT Parts

The Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning (DFIC) Process from Hi-Tech Furnace Systems is able to clean deep, narrow cracks of oxides by cycling between negative, atmospheric, and positive pressure.

Archived Articles

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

Power Industry Wire News

Composers Make Con Edison Grants Sing

Composers Make Con Edison Grants Sing

US-Energy Company Announces Plans to Implement Renewable Energy Projects Throughout Sierra Leone

US-Energy Company Announces Plans to Implement Renewable Energy Projects Throughout Sie...

Verso Corporation Reports Fourth Quarter and Year-End 2014 Results

Verso Corporation Reports Fourth Quarter and Year-End 2014 Results

Dynamic Materials Comments on Delay in Issuing Fourth Quarter and Year-End Earnings Release; New Earnings Release and Conference Call Date Set for March 16, 2014

Dynamic Materials Comments on Delay in Issuing Fourth Quarter and Year-End Earnings Rel...

U.S. Southeast Home to More Than $10 Billion in Project Starts in Second-Quarter 2015, an Industrial Info News Alert

U.S. Southeast Home to More Than $10 Billion in Project Starts in Second-Quarter 2015, ...

Power Engineering

Article Archives for Power Engineering Magazine

Continuing Education

Professional Development Hours

To access a course listing associated to a specific topic listed below, click on the topic of choice from the list below.

Latest Energy Jobs

View more Job Listings >>