Silicon Valley goes dark again

Silicon Valley goes dark again

Summary: Here in California, we're famous for our Tech Industry and our rolling blackouts.  In an area that's supposedly one of the technology leaders of the world, we can't seem to get reliable electricity.

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TOPICS: Outage
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Here in California, we're famous for our Tech Industry and our rolling blackouts.  In an area that's supposedly one of the technology leaders of the world, we can't seem to get reliable electricity.  It isn't just the Government's fault, a large portion of citizens in this state hate the production of energy but they're more than happy to consume it.  This unfortunately leads to the situation we have now where it feels like we're in the Banana Republic of California when it comes to power reliability even though we're the most populous and probably wealthiest state in the Union.

About a year ago we had a nasty power outage in the heart of Silicon Valley that lasted for more than 2 days during the hottest time of the year.  This week we've had a couple of blackouts including a 4 hour power outage last night.  Fortunately it's back now (though I don't know for how long) so I won't need to go fill up a tank of gas for the mini-generator I got during last year's outage.  What I will have to get is a small UPS so my computer doesn't keep bouncing up and down with hard shutdowns.  It's off to the Computer store I guess.

Topic: Outage

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114 comments
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  • Stunning

    Unbelievable. Sounds more like Zimbabwe or something. The last power outage where I live, is several years ago. Lasted 30 minutes and caused great indignation.....

    Greetz from the Netherlands,
    Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • Yes, it is very stunning

      We get a lot of opposition to building new power plants or infrastructure in this state.
      georgeou
      • Apparently . . .

        Californians believe that electricity is a 'Magic' force that doesn't need to be produced, it's just 'there' whenever you need it.

        Wither that or they're wondering why other states don't just 'give' them the power they need simply 'cause they're Californians and they deserve it . . .

        #-o
        JLHenry
    • Europe just had a big outage last Fall

      It seems like we are all slipping gradually towards 3rd world status:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6117880.stm

      But Im sure our governments will fix the problem! I have nothing but infinate faith in the power of new regulations to cure all ills!
      otaddy
      • Europeans are afflicted with same disease

        Europeans are afflicted with same disease, it?s called NIMBY (Not in my back yard).
        Ironically the French are there to bail them out Nuclear power.
        georgeou
        • Hey George - 100% total agreement!

          [i]"called NIMBY (Not in my back yard)"[/i]

          There is also the "environmental" factor where the "greens" don't want nuclear (CO2-free) power but won't let you build gas or coal stations either. They can't have their cake and eat it too!

          The other favourite is that nuclear power stations are expensive to build - like any other power is cheap to build. They all cost money. Over the long haul the nuclear stations might be cheaper to run (TCO) given the cost of the fuel to run them compared to coal and gas. All the Uranium and Plutonuim we need as already been mined and paid for by the military. Converting 98% pure weapons grade to 3% civilian grade makes a LOT of fuel. It gets rid of nuclear weapons too!!

          :-)
          bportlock
          • Can't have no nukes

            Can't have no nukes. That has been keeping the peace all through these years between the super powers. Super powers have now been changed to US, Russia, China.
            georgeou
          • The joys of overkill

            [i]"Can't have no nukes"[/i]

            At present the US and Russia have enough nukes to flatten the world about 5 times over. Flattening the world just once will do for dommsday. The other 80% are "garnish" and we might as well use them for something else.
            bportlock
    • It's all relative

      [i]The last power outage where I live, is several years ago. Lasted 30 minutes and caused great indignation.[/i]

      They're a lot more common here, but that's mainly from weather damage to distribution systems and they're usually fixed in a couple of hours. NL has a bit milder climate than we do; 100 kph winds are pretty common during our summer storm season.

      Of course, we [b]did[/b] have a major transformer farm go out a couple of summers ago when an eagle found a way to suicide by HT electricity and the flaming eagle remains took out a monster transformer. Getting a replacement from the Coast took several days of shutting down a major highway while the heavy-lift hauler crawled along.

      A key difference is that NL is livable w/o electricity. When the power goes out here in the summer, people die. This week we got close enough to 45 degrees that it depended on where you measured it, and a few years back the official temp went over 50 -- airplanes were grounded for that one.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Are you in C or F?

        ]:)
        Linux User 147560
  • Socialist Republic of Cali

    You nailed it George, people cant have it both ways. Im all for new ideas and new technology but so far nothing can replace traditional power sources.

    Demand has grown as government has held down the rates charged to consumers while at the same time it prohibits new power plants from being built.

    This causes increased demand and no increase in supply. The result is shortages.

    True the power companies are protected monopolies but government has set it up that way and the so called "public utilites commissions" are a joke.
    otaddy
  • It's all a matter of priorities

    From conversations with cow-orkers who insist on living in postage-stamp apartments with two-hour commutes to San Jose, it's pretty simple: all the cost and aggravation are worth it to live in a place with coastal California's climate.

    Well, then, it follows that if your priorities are fresh air, no power plants or refineries, and a year-round shirtsleeve climate then power blackouts are no big deal. They certainly weren't for the hunter-gatherer societies that occupied the area right up until the Spanish arrived, and the Spanish Californios were headed to a similar state of lotus consumption when the Yankees showed up.

    Now it's the "Yankee's" turn. Relax, George. Enjoy the nice weather.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Thats right relax

      YB's got the right idea. Quit being a mole person and enjoy the out of doors for a change. Otherwise move to North Dakota and install a Diesel generator in your abandoned missile silo.
      SteveTheWirePuller
  • The solution is simple

    But the naysayers and no wayers refuse to use the most available power source around in California to augment their electrical needs and reduce the load on the main plants.

    Common sense there buddy. INVEST IN ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES THAT WILL REDUCE YOUR RELIANCE ON PG&E AS WELL AS REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOT PRINT! It's simple economics... how much does it cost a corporation to install solar / wind power sources? Now how much does it cost when all there data centers or workers are sitting in the dark doing squat on the clock? It's a no brainer.

    ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Problem is that alternative sources aren't close to being enough

      Problem is that alternative sources aren't close to being enough. Anyone who claims otherwise is fooling themselves.
      georgeou
      • You are right but the problem is manmade.

        It appears that the companies that produce the alternate power sources produce just enough units for a photo opt. Then they skate to the next photo opt by putting some token 250kw facility on a carport and get all the green kudos. What a bunch of self serving suck ups to the latest polling results. You are not green unless you are manufacturing solar panels to cause a shortage of raw material or knocking out 10 5mw turbines a week like clockwork. We could put a million people to work if we made it a public works project.

        California has so much sun in Death Valley that CIGS solar panels would eliminate North America's electrical needs and make bullet trains a reality. They say both Dakotas combined would do the same if occupied by windmills. Then there is NIMBY. We just can't win. There are so many cannot be dones in this country that it is a self fulfilling prophesy. I guess the oil has to run out before necessity sparks creativity.
        osreinstall
        • huh?

          5mw is awfully small
          richvball44
          • There is more than one.

            5MW x 30,000 for the North See in the next 15 years is not awfully small. With more to follow. 150,000MW = 1500GW. Niagara Falls is only 3GW, Canadian and US combined.

            Here is a picture of the machine. Not exactly small.
            http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com/assets/images/story/2006/8/31/1332_REPower5MW.jpg

            Also check out the rest of this website while you are there.
            osreinstall
          • Maths mistakes, etc...

            [i]"5MW x 30,000 for the North See in the next 15 years is not awfully small. With more to follow. 150,000MW = 1500GW"[/i]

            Your maths is wrong. 150,000MW = 150GW. It sounds good but not all your windmills will be blowing at any given point in time so you will need a lot more than 30,000 of them.

            Chernobyl put out 1000MW per reactor and it had 4 of them so that is 4000MW. A modern PWR can put out 1600MW per reactor, so two dozen, four reactor PWR stations would provide the same power output as 30,000 of the 5MW windmills (which are still in prototype in Germany).

            So the alternative is - cover the country in windmills or build some nuc stations. Remember that we don't all have two Dakotas to stick windmills in. In the last 24 hours the UK used 39GW (see http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Data/Realtime/Demand/demand24.htm ) and it is summer time with long days and a weekend. 30,000 windmills would leave us nowhere to live. 24 nuclear stations would never be noticed.
            bportlock
          • Yep the first one in a long time.

            Still beats the Robert Moses Authority all to hell in Niagara falls. On the North See the wind never stops blowing so all are engaged. It is nasty up there. The specs on them are 95 to 97% uptime.

            None of Chernobyl reactors put out 1000MW for the reactors would be red lined. 1&3 were only putting out 1800 while 4 was sealed forever. Doesn't do you much good to blow them up due to inept Russians and a design flaw. Not to mention the tens of thousands that died and radioactivity covering a larger area than those windmills will. Cannot believe you brought up Chernobyl for it was an engineering disaster. The rest of the RBMKs built are being phased out starting in Lithuania in 2010.

            Nukes are not an alternative. Besides the uranium will be mined out in 90 years. Not to mention that nukes have a lot of down time also. You have offshore places for it. No one is expecting you to put one on the front lawn of Buckingham Palace. Plus the Germans plan on making larger ones anyway in the future you can buy from. Look at Scotland.

            Yes you are a NIMBY guy. You don't want to see them. Put those reactors in poor neighborhoods like Liverpool. Then when they fail and you taste metal, it is all over. Ukrainian tech telling the west what went down.

            Lets see 39GW in 24 hours and those windmills will deliver 4 times that in 24 hours. You need 7500 @ 100% x 2 for safety factor for 15000 units. 3/4 of them at sea the remainder on land plus solar ought to keep your pubs open mate. Of course you will need more in the future as your transportation goes electric.

            But you guys will complain, I don't want to see the bloody blades. They say the same thing here. By the time you figure in the overhead and oil industry assist in the infastructure and the storage area of spent fuel and area roped off for safety, plus national security, nukes are a loser.
            osreinstall