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Power Hardware News

Half of India Without Electricity As Power Grid Crisis Deepens 413

Posted by Soulskill
from the india's-population-is-1.2-billion dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that a massive power breakdown has hit India for a second day running, leaving more than half the country without power as the northern and eastern grids have both collapsed. The breakdown has hit a large swathe of the country including Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan states in the north, and West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand in the east. Power cuts are a common occurrence in Indian cities because of a fundamental shortage of power and an aging grid. The chaos caused by such cuts has led to protests and unrest on the streets but the collapse of an entire grid is rare — the last time the northern grid failed was in 2001. India's demand for electricity has soared in recent years as its economy has grown but its power infrastructure has been unable to meet the growing needs. In the weeks leading up to the failure, extreme heat had caused power use to reach record levels in New Delhi and on July 30 a line feeding into the Agra-Bareilly transmission section, the 400-kV Bina-Gwalior line, tripped, triggering the collapse. The second grid collapse occurred on 31 July as the Northern, Eastern and North-Eastern power grids of India tripped/failed causing power blackout in 19 states across India. The crisis was allegedly triggered after four states — Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and UP — drew much more than their assigned share of power."
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Half of India Without Electricity As Power Grid Crisis Deepens

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  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:51AM (#40827331) Journal
    Saw an interesting and partially-related piece yesterday about scheduled and unscheduled power-outages in neighbouring Pakistan [telegraph.co.uk] and the social unrest that can result from them.

    We all know the old adage about a civilised society being just three missed meals away from barbarism. In the modern world, I wonder whether something similar could be said for the power supply. And might broadband ever fall into the same camp?
  • Re:Wind Electricity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:52AM (#40827345) Homepage Journal

    Is this another example of "all or nothing" attitude?

    I use a bit of solar on my own house and I wish that I had a way to put up a wind turbine. They are great supplementary forms of power, but it seems like the attitude is that if they aren't perfect then they are worthless.

  • Re:Wind Electricity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kokuyo (549451) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:53AM (#40827365) Journal

    Unless the wind decides to take a nap right about the moment when the sun tries to burn people to a crisp. You know, the reason you have to turn on air conditioning in the first place, because there's no wind to cool shit down.

    Wind power is a nice bonus but I wouldn't rely on it powering anything of importance.

    Localized LFTR reactors, on the other hand...

  • Re:Help desks down? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:07AM (#40827505)

    our corporate email owa web interface is down.
    global fortune 5 company.

    as for the outage, one big issue in this country is that power plants require outside power to run. They require the grid to be up and power in order to start unless the plant is a black-start unit, and they are a very very small percentage of the units. If the us infrastructure has this risk I can only image how bad it is in India.

  • Still too limited!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:24AM (#40827731) Homepage Journal

    My 'perfect' carbon neutral electricity source is 40% nuclear, 20% solar, 20% wind, and 20% hydro/geo/other.

    20% solar is a 'perfect' fit for the average 50% increase in power demand during the day. 1.5(day) + 1(night) = 2.5 * 20% = .5. 40% nuclear gives you a good amount of stability, while the 20% wind doesn't make you strain too much if power demand happens to increase when the wind isn't blowing ideally. The remaining 20% is for peaking capability(which hydro is good at), and niche electrical providers where they're just the best answer for that spot.

    Best yet, since you have a variety of sources, you're nicely diversified and not likely to be as screwed by unusual situations.

  • by khoonirobo (1316521) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:33AM (#40827823)

    Background:

    I'm an Indian, presently in Gurgaon (within National Capital Region) and yes, there has been a blackout since past few hours.

    As to homes and office, situation is not so bad because blackouts are such an everyday occurrence that diesel generators in apartment complexes and offices are *very* common. The immediate real effects are to infrastructure i.e. Railways and Delhi Metro (mass transport).

    Now to address the system, a good reading : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_India [wikipedia.org]

    relevant parts from first paragraph:

    The per capita average annual domestic electricity consumption in India in 2009 was 96 kWh in rural areas and 288 kWh in urban areas for those with access to electricity, in contrast to the worldwide per capita annual average of 2600 kWh and 6200 kWh in the European Union. India's total domestic, agricultural and industrial per capita energy consumption estimate vary depending on the source. Two sources place it between 400 to 700 kWh in 2008–2009. As of January 2012, one report found the per capita total consumption in India to be 778 kWh.

    India currently suffers from a major shortage of electricity generation capacity, even though it is the world's fourth largest energy consumer after United States, China and Russia. The International Energy Agency estimates India needs an investment of at least $135 billion to provide universal access of electricity to its population.

    India's electricity sector is amongst the world's most active players in renewable energy utilization, especially wind energy. As of December 2011, India had an installed capacity of about 22.4 GW of renewal technologies-based electricity, exceeding the total installed electricity capacity in Austria by all technologies.

    We do have a major problem on our hands.
    1. Demand *far* outstrips supply.
    2. Distribution losses are high. Illegal tapping, faulty meters, old equipment and corruption being leading causes.
    3. Free/cheap electricity provided to agriculture sector and collection of dues waived due to vote-bank politics.

    But we are working on it:
    1. Looking into renewable energy like wind and hydro in a major way. (see quote above and wiki)
    2. Major investment into Nuclear energy.

    Environmental groups are slowing down development of the above though.

  • by pmathew (1597155) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:37AM (#40827875)
    The media is giving a lot of hype to this .. and half the nation is a big number and and grid is a big thing so i guess its important .. but India always had power shortage ..Bangalore used to have 6 hours load shedding in summers every day in city and 12 hours in rural .. but life just moves on .. it never really mattered .. almost every apartment has backup power generators and same with corporate offices as power is not so reliable .. and for others who dont have backup its not critical and no power means slight inconvenience .. nothing comes to standstill .. not even traffic light breakdown .. really those never worked and no one followed them anyways .. India is like that .. i am not proud of this and i am an indian .. i am just telling its no big deal .. and regarding the uprising this .. unless its on the final over of world cup india is wining .. no chance .. we are peaceful creatures ..
  • Re:Help desks down? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:14AM (#40828347)
    I used to be in the power industry (not in India), and a couple of the power stations I worked at had jet engines hooked to generating sets to give enough power to start. They tested them once a month, and they worked nearly every single time for years, until one day when a major cable went down while another plant had all it's units shut down and the third, very old and tiny power station, had been shut down for the day. Apparently the small plant (40MW units? Tiny anyway) had a boiler that was still hot enough that huge piles of oil soaked rags and other bits and pieces raised enough steam to get the equipment that supplied the coal moving and a real fire going. Within a few hours that unit was generating enough to get larger units in the shutdown power station going.
  • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:39AM (#40828643)

    We all know the old adage about a civilised society being just three missed meals away from barbarism. In the modern world, I wonder whether something similar could be said for the power supply. And might broadband ever fall into the same camp?

    Been there, did that. So, for that matter, did Virginia, more recently.

    Hurricane blew by. Power went out. Stayed out 4 days. These were the things we missed:

    1. Refrigeration - we had a full load of groceries, so we crammed everything we could into an ice chest and grilled the rest.
    2. HOT WATER!!!!
    3. Cooking electricity
    4. Air Conditioning
    5. Lights
    6. Power for the electronics

    Afterwards, we looked into alternatives. R/Vs operate with gas-powered fridges, which are actually simpler and quieter than their electric brethren. But, being a specialty item, the prices are ridiculous.

    2. Hot water was actually not that big a problem. Put a large jug in the garage and it'll be 110F in a day. Locally, solar experts actually recommend roof-mounted solar water heaters as the #1 way to save on energy costs, since hot water is one of the biggest consumers of energy.

    3. charcoal BBQ grill. Although I bought a propane camp stove afterwards.

    4. Fortunately, the first day or two after a storm is relatively cool. After that, the humidity and temperature soared to about the same levels as much of India is recording. Not pleasant, but, like much of India, we didn't have A/C when I grew up anyway. A solar-powered fan gave a little temporary relief.

    5. I brought in the solar landscape lights. Afterwards I developed a keen interest in high-brightness LEDs, which were beginning to approach 1 candlepower. Newer units are even brighter, so that problem is no longer a problem.

    6. OK, at this point the serious suffering began.

  • Re:Wind Electricity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cyssero (1554429) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:40AM (#40828659)
    Solar panels are abundant throughout Udaipur, a city in the affected state of Rajasthan. Rooftops are scattered with them here but I don't know or believe the rest of the country has them as widely installed.
  • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:16AM (#40829151)

    It will actually be interesting to hear if any call centers that claimed Serious Redundancy And Stuff were a tad... optimistic... and will find customers going elsewhere in the near future.

    It's not like backup power is total rocket surgery; but things that cost money all the time and only prove useful occasionally have a nasty habit of being neglected...

    India's always had power issues. If you look at some Indian electronics magazines, what's the #1 most advertised product in them? Yes, power equipment - power conditioners, UPSes, battery banks, generators, etc.

    The only guaranteed thing about India's electricity was that it was unreliable.

    I think all the equipment is tested quite regularly purely because of it. They're not "occasionally useful", they're essential equipment unless one likes to live intermittently.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:28AM (#40829305) Homepage

    When I first got to China in 2004, summer blackouts were just part of life. From 10am until 4pm, the power at my apartment just went off. I had to go find a cafe or something and sit around until the heat of the day had passed and the power came back on. It only happened sometimes, not every day. I found out later that there was a schedule for such things, but I couldn't read Chinese back then so there was no way for me to know. I haven't been in a residential blackout for years now. Obviously, things have gotten better. A big nuclear plant went online near here a few years back and I'm sure that ended the power problem permanently. It must be nice having your society run by scientists and engineers, and treating the environuts as the Luddites that they are.

    Factories were on a schedule of blackouts, too. There was not enough power to go around, so one or two days per week there would be no electricity. This delayed production and caused all kinds of problems, particularly when the factory failed to inform the customer that this was the case. Factories could get diesel generators to pick up the slack, but generally the factory owners were too cheap to invest in this sort of thing.

  • Re:Wind Electricity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mikael (484) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @05:02PM (#40834287)

    You use the basic laws of thermodynamics. Take a gas that can be easily compressed into a liquid through a narrowing of a pipe. When this happens, heat is given off, then the now liquid gas becomes cool and is pumped into the freezer compartment. Then the liquid absorbs heat from the freezer, cooling the freezer and heating the liquid. After passing through the cooling circuit, it is released into wider pipes where the liquid expands back into a gas and cools down. The cycle then repeats.

    In the modern apartments of India, an Indian family is going to have the TV, DVD player, satellite dish, dish-washer, fridge, freezer, air-conditioners in the living room, bedrooms and kitchen, cooker, microwave, steamer, electric garage door and gates. They are even going to have power-pumps for the cold water supply to ensure they get their fair share of the water supply. The most critical are the cooker and washing/machines. Both of those on together will top 9 Kilowatts (We know, because our old house had a 9 Kilowatt trip switch, and it would trip right when these items were on, along with a TV and several laptops). Add a few air-conditioners on permanently and that goes over 15 Kilowatts. Add a water mains power-pump (because everyone else has one, and if you don't, you don't get any water), and that would go over 20 Kilowatts. Multiply that by several hundred million, and you've got massive demand in the Gigawatt range. Well beyond what the grid was designed for.

    In the past, the solution to blackouts was simply to redirect the energy to whoever was complaining at the time.

    Some people were getting so fed up, they were hiring the transgender community to party and dance outside the home of the electricity board's CEO at 2am in the morning. If they weren't going to get any sleep, neither was he.

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