Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WNWO talks blackout

Next week, I'm showing my environmental science classes The End of Suburbia.  One of the questions I ask is about the blackout of 2003.
8. Summarize the size, causes, and effects of the blackout of August 2003; include how peak usage contributed to the crisis.
One of the key points the late Matthew Simmons made in the movie was that the blackout of 2003 was a dress rehearsal for a collapse, but Americans and Canadians didn't learn a thing from it.  He might be right, as WNWO asked yesterday Could black-out of 2003 happen again?

Hot and humid days increase the risk of a blackout like the one in 2003.
The video helps answer the question I asked almost as well as the film; peak usage during the late afternoon contributed to the crisis from all the air conditioners running.

As for how this might play out, I'll quote what I wrote during the 100-degree-days of July 2011, the hottest July on record for Detroit.
Finally, this heat wave and the associated health problems and power outages have become another teachable moment for me. I showed my students "The End of Suburbia" this week and one of the events described in that movie was the 2003 blackout that happened during a heat wave. The late Russell Simmons mentioned that the power grid was most vulnerable between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM on hot days because all three sets of customers, residential, commercial, and industrial, were online at the same time. According to one of my students, the power went out in Ferndale at 5:00 PM on Wednesday. He had watched "The End of Suburbia" the day before and he recalled what Simmons said. Well, that's one way to learn a lesson--the hard way!

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