Perfect power?

The light bulbs in my bathroom blinked off and on, twice, while I was shaving a couple of days ago. Later I noticed that digital clocks were blinking and my computer had turned off. Another power failure! And the weather was fine.

Minor power failures seem to be happening more and more often recently, even in good weather. I don’t think it’s happening just here in Katrina land, either. Major failures also seem to crop up a little more than in the past.

Reason: Most of the nation’s power grid is 50 years old. It is over-taxed and under-engineered.

The Galvin Electricity Initiative was created to address this infrastructural problem. They say a perfect power system is possible, through redundancy and “smart systems”. At least in part. I haven’t studied everything on their site yet. Kansas City Power & Light, for example, will give customers a free programmable thermostat, including installation, if they agree to let the power company adjust their AC setting by a few degrees during weekdays at peak load hours. This saves power and money. (Still, seems a little Big Brother like.)

Our infrastructure problems are immense: Roads, bridges, the electrical grid and sewer and water systems are all past their “sell by” date. (Not to mention the education system. Or health care.)

They will all need to be rebuilt sooner or later. But new thinking is needed. We probably won’t use these systems in the same way in the future.

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