Putting lights over houses or Christmas trees is one of the most-awaited family gathering events for some. Unfortunately, in 2013, more than 65 000 Irish households were spending Christmas Eve in the dark, hurricane Maria, the largest blackout in the US history, left 3.5 million inhabitants without power for 36 days. Scientists conclude that power outages are expected to become even more frequent in the future. Why this happens and how to keep the lights on during the festive season?
A recent study by the University of Lincoln indicates that the number of power outages worldwide has increased tremendously in the past decades. According to the study, blackout situations lead to annual losses of up to $180 billion in the US alone. There are a number of reasons to explain the ever-increasing power outage cases, one of which is the exponential increase in household electricity usage – 13 times in the recent 60 years in the US. Use of electricity to power vehicles, condition or heat air has made electrical power fuel for modern society’s existence. Consequently, breaches of continuous electricity supply are more and more frequent not by a chance – households need more electricity, however, resources are highly constrained.
Although disequilibrium of electrical energy demand-supply is reasonable, the most common cause of outages is the force majeure type of situations. The Edison Electric Institute states that 70% of power outages in the U.S. alone are weather-related. According to the study, power outages are 2.25 times more frequent and longer in winter. High winds, lightening coupled with snow or ice are the most dangerous and common during the Christmas season across the Northern parts of the globe. In the summertime, heavy rain, flooding or wildfire emergencies are the main culprits for blackouts. Natural disasters put threat on power girds – overturn nearby trees or building constructions.
“Current vegetation management solutions and LiDAR technology allow us detecting dangerous trees and other types of vegetation which apparently cause power outages. Our latest power grid inspection in Lithuania revealed over 10 dangerous trees and more than 7500 sq. m of dangerous vegetation per kilometer. During the inspection in Romania, we’ve discovered 44 dangerous trees per kilometer. Based on precise analysis conducted by companies like Laserpas, electricity providers can easily establish vegetation clearance plans which eliminate 80% of the blackout risk,” comments Mantas Vaskela, CEO of Laserpas.
Finally, ageing of power line constructions is also blamed for temporary electricity shutdowns. Paradoxically, ageing infrastructures are indicated in highly electricity reliant countries such as the US or India, for example. Excluding whether-related blackouts, US electric grid loses power 285% more often than in 1984. This tremendous increase is caused by power overloads, unstable constructions and various breaches of the power lines. Mantas Vaskela explains that cutting-edge technologies which Laserpas, for instance, employs allows detecting ageing grid’s consequences and repair the power lines, as well as take preventative actions.
To conclude, either its increased electricity demand, severe storm, dangerous vegetation or cracked cable line, the physical, moral and financial threats of losing power are daunting. Fortunately, it is possible to ensure minimal impact on power network while conducting the precise inspection, taking precautions and... consequently, keeping the Christmas lights on during the festive season!