New York is in the dark again: the city’s power grid can not cope with the load

Managing the New York City Power Grid | Breakthrough

New York is in the dark again: the city's power grid can not cope with the load

New York is in the dark again: the city’s power grid can not cope with the load

On Sunday, New York suffered its second massive power outage in ten days. Russian service &# 171; Voices of America&# 187; found out who should be blamed for this and what the city authorities are going to do

Last weekend, residents of the entire Northeast coast of the United States tried to leave their homes as little as possible – a giant heat wave covered the entire Northeast and Midwest. The record heat has led to increased use of air conditioners. And on Sunday evening, hundreds of thousands of Michigan and New Yorkers were left without electricity.

18 hours without light

The cause of the energy accident in Michigan is a storm that hit the state after the collision of cold air currents with a thermal “cushion” that enveloped the region. According to local energy operators DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, 800,000 homes across the state were without electricity. The consequences of the accident will be finally eliminated not earlier than Tuesday..

In New York, the massive “blackout” has become the second in the last ten days. The blackouts began on Sunday evening in several districts of New York at once. This time, the lights in the houses of the townspeople were turned off at the initiative of Con Edison (ConEd), which controls the city’s electricity market. The energy operator considered that the townspeople were spending too much electricity and decided to cut off entire districts from the electricity in order to prevent a citywide “blackout”.

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ConEd said in a statement that by Sunday evening, New York City and Westchester County had “set an all-time record for energy consumption” of 12,063 megawatts. The company was “forced to disconnect from our customers in southeast Brooklyn to protect vital equipment,” ConEd said in a statement. The company pledged to restore power by next morning and asked New Yorkers to be more careful when using electrical appliances..

However, in the end, not only Brooklyn residents were left without light. By 6 pm, the blackouts had already affected 10,000 people, and by 7 pm, 22,000 residents of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx were without power. Since then, ConEd has additionally cut off 30,000 customers in Brooklyn. Even Park Slope, where Mayor Bill de Blasio lives, was left without electricity..

Despite promises to fix all problems by 11 a.m. Monday, at noon, an interactive map on ConEd’s website showed 13,000 residents of Brooklyn and Queens were still without electricity..

ConEd is to blame for everything?

City and state officials immediately blamed ConEd, the private energy company that owns the vast majority of the electricity grid in New York City and neighboring Westchester County. They immediately remembered about the energy accident that happened last Saturday in the central part of Manhattan – 72 thousand people in the very center of New York sat without light for five hours.

Manhattan in the dark

According to power engineers, the main cause of the Manhattan accident is a malfunction in the relay protection system installed at the ConEd substation on the Upper West Side. The accident was triggered by a power cable that caught fire next to a substation on 65th Street. Cable fires are usually blocked at the substation level by a relay system that detects problems and prevents them from spreading further down the grid.

Something went wrong last Saturday. As Timothy Cowley, president of ConEd, explained in an interview with The New York Times, at least two relay protection systems did not work properly. The cable fire was not blocked at the substation level on 65th Street. Instead, the relay system relayed the erroneous signal to the nearest substation located on 49th Street, and from there the power outage signal was transmitted to six other substations. As a result, a large part of Midtown, from the Upper West Side to 30th Street, and from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson, was without electricity due to an automatic failure..

Cowley called this unfortunate coincidence “unique” – at least the president of ConEd himself has never encountered such situations. It is not known for certain why the protection system at two substations failed. The company continues to investigate the incident.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in turn, on Monday asked New York state authorities to investigate the massive blackouts in Brooklyn. Di Blasio, he said, finally stopped trusting ConEd after the company, on its own initiative, left tens of thousands of New Yorkers without electricity..

Electric monopoly

The power supply system in New York and neighboring Westchester County is fully controlled by ConEd, one of the nation’s largest utility providers. ConEd serves 10 million customers in New York and Westchester.

ConEd, a privately held company with approximately $ 12 billion in annual revenues and $ 48 billion in assets, is regulated by New York State. In addition to electricity, ConEd also manages the gas supply for all of New York and Westchester County, and the steam service of Manhattan..

It is not the first time that Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of the presumptuous monopolist, who, according to the governor, “behaves as if it were a backbone bank. This is a franchise, this is a license. This is not a God-given right – and if they don’t work well, they can be replaced. “.

How the power supply system works in New York

  • The ConEd power grid covers an area of ​​over 1709 sq. km in New York and Westchester (data from the New York Times). The system is divided into 200 independent networks, each of which independently regulates the supply of electricity to certain areas of the city. Manhattan, for example, is divided into 39 networks, and one of them regulates the supply of electricity to a single building – the Rockefeller Center skyscraper..
  • ConEd claims the company spends millions of dollars annually on repairs and upgrades of networks and equipment, which is reflected in the amount of invoices issued to consumers..
  • The company also claims that its power grids are able to serve more than 9 million people without any problems even during periods of peak loads – as it was, for example, last weekend (and then it turned out that ConEd was still unable to cope with the sharply increased in demand).
  • Typically, New York City’s electricity consumption peaks at 5pm, when city dwellers return home from work. In summer, the maximum load falls at 3 pm – at this moment people most often use air conditioners.

In December 2018, a transformer exploded in New York at a substation owned by ConEd

The New York State Independent System Operator estimates that the metropolitan power grid is aging rapidly. More than 80% of all lines were commissioned before 1980. Experts believe that almost 8,000 km of high-voltage power lines will need to be replaced in the next 30 years. It will cost about $ 25 billion..

The construction of new lines is complicated by the negative attitude of local residents and the need to obtain permits from various departments. For example, the contractors of the Hudson seabed power line, which carries electricity from New Jersey to Manhattan, spent several years just collecting the permits needed to start laying the cable..

How much do New Yorkers pay for electricity?

  • New York is the second most cost per kilowatt-hour of all American cities, behind only the state of Hawaii. The rate set by ConEd for private users in New York is 24.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. The average New Yorker who spends 300 kWh a month gets a $ 80 bill every month. The least paying for electricity in the United States are residents of Louisiana (9.33 cents), Georgia (11.07 cents) and California (13.94 cents).
  • The amount indicated in the payment depends on several factors – these include the price of electricity in the wholesale market (its work is regulated by the Independent System Operator of the State of New York), the cost of transmission and delivery of electricity to the consumer and the repair of the electricity network. About a third of the total invoice amount is taxes and fees. ConEd customers also pay property tax, sales tax, special utility tax and surcharge to fund New York State clean energy programs when paying their electricity bill..

It could be worse

Much larger energy accidents have occurred in the history of New York and the United States. The worst blackout in the history of the country happened in 2003 when a tree fell on a power line in Ohio due to a power short. After a series of human errors and a computer malfunction, a vast area plunged into darkness – from New York to Toronto, Canada. 50 million people were left without electricity, the accident cost the American economy $ 6 billion. There was no light in New York for 29 hours.

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New York is in the dark again: the city's power grid can not cope with the load

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On November 9, 1965, the “Great Blackout” took place in the northeastern United States – after an accident at a Canadian power plant, 30 million people were left without electricity in several states and two Canadian provinces. At night, the city plunged into complete darkness. There was no light in New York for about 10 hours.

Another massive blackout that happened on July 13, 1977 led to the most tragic consequences (by a strange coincidence, the recent blackout in Manhattan occurred exactly 42 years after the 1977 blackout). Several substations supplying electricity to the city system went down after being struck by lightning strikes. Almost all of New York was left without electricity for 25 hours.

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Three factors led to the ensuing mass unrest: the then raging financial crisis, the associated rapid increase in crime, and the unbearable heat and stuffiness that was common in New York in July. In the evening, riots swept over 30 boroughs in New York. Brooklyn was the most unlucky – in Crown Heights alone, marauders looted 75 stores. In Bushwick, 25 buildings were set on fire, and two blocks of buildings on the Bushwick-Bedford Stuyvesant border were also on fire. On Brooklyn Broadway, 135 stores were looted. Marauders broke into a car dealership in the Bronx and stole 50 new Pontiacs from there. 550 police officers were injured during the riots, more than 4500 people were arrested.

  • Artem Gurevich

    In journalism – since 2001. From 2005 to 2009, he was responsible for public relations at Nokia in the Russian Far East. He worked in Singapore, Thailand, Brazil and Argentina, developing corporate publications for Coca-Cola and Kaspersky Lab companies. In 2017, he participated in the restart of RTVI, worked as an Internet news editor at the channel’s New York office. On «Voice of America» – since 2018.

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