Monday, May 7, 2012

Report on the big South-Western US Blackout on September 08, 2011

Some 6 months after the big blackout in the Pacific Southwest, leading to cascading outages and leaving approximately 2.7 million customers without power in parts of Arizona, Southern California, and Baja California, and Mexico, a comprehensive report has been published.

The Key Findings, Causes, and Recommendations are as follows:

“The September 8, 2011, event showed that the system was not being operated in a secure N-1 state. This failure stemmed primarily from weaknesses in two broad areas—operations planning and real-time situational awareness—which, if done properly, would have allowed system operators to proactively operate the system in a secure N-1 state during normal system conditions and to restore the system to a secure N-1 state as soon as possible, but no longer than 30 minutes. Without adequate planning and situational awareness, entities responsible for operating and overseeing the transmission system could not ensure reliable operations within System Operating Limits (SOLs) or prevent cascading outages in the event of a single contingency. As demonstrated in Appendix C, inadequate situational awareness and planning were also identified as causes of the 2003 blackout that affected an estimated 50 million people in the United States and Canada.”

One of the crucial needs for real-time operations is the availability of real-time INFORMATION – to become aware of the situation at the level of the electrical process, primary equipment, secondary functions, and distributed power resources! This requires real-time information exchange which seems to have not been properly installed, available or used. One challenge is to handle the many vendor and user specific communication protocols. It is very surprising that even at the power transmission level the awareness seems to be showing gaps. The situational awareness (supported by real-time information exchange) at the high voltage levels is one of the most crucial issues in power systems!

So, what is the situation in the implementation of real-time information exchange systems in the lower voltage levels? Hm … IEC 61850 installed all over would definitely help to get a good awareness of the situation of the system – allowing to proactively operate the system.

More standard based communication (IEC 61850, DNP3, …) to come.

Read complete power outage report.

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