Unfortunately, the electrical grid that we have come to rely on is vulnerable to several threats. These include; terrorism, violent storms, cyber attacks, solar storms and simply old age.
Over the past 5 years I have spent a lot of time talking with an expert on the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the grid and the very real possibility our nation could be without power for months, yes months.
The late Martin Fox (PhD, M.D. ) was a friend and mentor. Dr. Fox taught electrical engineering at the University of Connecticut. He was also an avid believer in renewable energy. One of the things he would repeatedly warn me about was the dangerous and scary possibility our grid could go down for months.
I was reminded of these conversations last week when it was revealed that a hacker gained access to the head of the CIA’s private email account.
Why should you care? Simple; if a hacker can get access to the private email of the head of the CIA, you can well imagine the very real possibility a hacker could get access to our nations grid and bring it down.
If the grid were to go down long term because of terrorism or a hacker, it would look something like this..
The lights go out, no big deal, you wait it out, listening to the radio and get all the info you can. At first, there is very little info, the only known fact is the entire U.S. is without power. The nation is told that your local, state and the federal government are doing all they can to restore power as fast as possible. Behind the scenes however, things are not so optimistic. The President and his national security team are reviewing the worst case scenario; the nation could be without power for months. Generators are good for about a week, maybe two, after that things get ugly. Gas stations cannot pump gas. The nations internet and cell phone networks start to fail as the generators run dry and cell phone towers, routers and data centers run out of power. Radio and TV stations start to go off the air. There is no food or fuel distribution as the grocery stores, trucks, warehouses and refineries run out of fuel. Water and sewage services start to fail as the pumps cannot run without fuel. Our economy would come to a standstill as every business from main street to wall street slowly grind to a halt. The security of our nation will start to unravel as mobs begin to loot stores and gas stations. if it happens in winter, it will be much worse.
The national guard would be deployed to try to restore security and fuel to critical parts of our country.
Our nation could face the very real possibility of being thrown into the dark ages for months.
How can you be prepared? Buy several crank flashlights and a crank radio. You charge them by turning a simple built in crank, they are very easy to use and do not require batteries. Buy a portable solar charger, (make sure it is powerful enough to charge your tablet and or cell phone in direct sunlight in 7 to 8 hours). Buy and stock up on as much canned food and bottled water as possible. Make sure you have a couple can openers. Purchase a medical kit. If you own a pet, stock up on as much pet food and supplies as you can. Purchase a small portable grill that can be fueled using sticks. Buy some walki talkies, this will help your family stay in touch if you have to venture out. Purchase rechargeable batteries and a solar charger to charge them.
Consider building or purchasing a solar or wind system with batteries, that will power a small fridge and some lights. If you have a house that relies on well water, talk to a solar or wind installer about a system that will keep your water pump running during a long outage.
If you already own a grid tied solar PV system, you will not be able to use that power when the grid is down, UNLESS you have a transfer switch. Why? The power company does not want your solar pv to electrocute their line workers when they are working to restore power. Talk to your solar installer about getting a transfer switch that will allow you to use your solar power during an outage.
The scariest scenario is if our planet is hit by a very large solar storm. NASA revealed that nearly happened in 2012 when a massive solar storm just missed our planet. We were very fortunate that Earth was not in the path when the sun erupted. If the solar storm had hit just a week earlier, our planet would have been in the path and it would have destroyed grids all over the world. This would have knocked us back into the 18th century by causing so much damage it would take years to repair.
How can you be prepared for a solar storm? The best way we can avoid this scenario is by upgrading the grid to withstand the hit. This costs a lot of money and is therefore, not very popular. The choice is yours; call your elected officials and urge them to upgrade the grid to withstand a major solar storm OR risk being knocked into the dark ages for years.