Why Power Failures Happen and Its Impact
Numerous factors, including extreme weather, equipment failure, and system overload, can cause power outages. Damage to distribution lines on customer property (“service drop”) due to contact with trees can cause outages. It generally affects fewer people than power outages caused by damage to transmission lines.
A power outage can cause several problems for your business. It can result in the loss of critical information, the malfunctioning of machinery and even an overall decrease in productivity. One of the most common causes of power failures is weather.
Lightning strikes, heavy rains and snowfall are all capable of causing severe disruptions to the power grid. These events can knock down branches or towers, cutting off the electricity supply. Natural calamities such as tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires can cause various power issues.
They can damage the equipment used to provide power or destroy it altogether. These disasters can also prompt utilities to preemptively shut down systems to reduce the chances of a major outage in an emergency.
Another important cause of power outages is the need to maintain the power system properly. Human error or a simple system overload could be at blame. It is important to regularly have your infrastructure inspected to ensure that it is up-to-date and safe. In addition to this, it is important to be mindful of the surrounding environment. Underground lines can easily be disturbed by people who are unaware of their location while digging, as well as by vehicles that hit utility poles.
While a lot of the time, power outages happen because of weather, they can also occur because of trees. Trees frequently cause power failure because they can block lines, break them, and fall on them. It can damage or destroy transformers, fuses and other pieces of equipment. Lightning can also damage wires and poles by striking them, causing an outage.
A lack of maintenance is another reason for a power outage to happen. Utility companies need to trim trees and clear brush around their lines regularly. However, a lack of money can push utilities to cut corners and back on this maintenance.
Then, the problems start to pile up. This problem is compounded when animals come into contact with electricity. When squirrels, rodents, raccoons and birds climb onto power equipment like fuses or transformers, they can short-circuit the system. The process is called electric treeing, which can lead to equipment breakdown over time.
A power outage can frequently be caused by a car accident. A momentary lapse of attention by a driver can result in the vehicle hitting a pole or other equipment. It can break the pole or bring down the equipment. These types of accidents typically only result in a local power outage.
Human error is among the most common causes of power failures and other safety hazards in industrial environments. It is true no matter the level of professionalism or experience, and it can profoundly affect the reliability and safety of complex systems. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent human error in these situations.
Electrical networks are massive equipment that can be damaged in many ways. Transformers can break or wear out over time, and even insulators on wires can crack or snap. Luckily, these components are relatively easy to replace, which tends to avoid widespread outages. The biggest cause of power outages, however, is human error.
People can unintentionally disturb or damage cables by digging near them, vandalizing towers and lines, and hitting them with vehicles. It is a problem not just for amateurs and pranksters but also for construction workers and power company employees.
Wild animals can also play a role in power outages, with squirrels, rodents, and birds often chewing through cables or damaging them. It can lead to short circuits and disruptions in the flow of electricity. These problems can be especially serious when the disturbance occurs close to a critical point in the network, making it much more likely for additional components not directly affected by the initial problem to fail.
While we often joke about weaponized squirrels attacking power plants, they aren’t the only critters to blame for unplanned downtime. Jellyfish gum up power plant cooling systems; snakes and rats chew through wire insulation; and invasive mollusk species obstruct hydropower plant pipes.
Power companies work hard to keep a lid on these creatures that seem to be drawn to high-voltage equipment. Squirrels are the most common cause of outages at public power utilities, which tracks squirrel attacks on the grid. Birds can also be costly, directly contacting sensitive equipment or leaving behind conductive trails of droppings that can trigger short circuits.
Power plant substations don’t mix well with wildlife, either. Raccoons, birds and snakes frequently climb around them or perch on transformers. Their propensity for gnawing on cable and wire insulation can lead to problems, from a blown fuse to a full-scale transformer failure.
In one memorable case, a vervet monkey caused a nationwide blackout in Kenya when it jumped or fell onto a transformer and tripped the switch, shutting down a power station and cutting off electricity to homes and businesses.
Animals can wreak even more havoc when they get in the way of construction workers or cause other mishaps. Fortunately, many companies are looking for solutions to reduce animal interference with electrical equipment. Examples include installing disks that fit around insulators or erecting critter guards that keep wildlife away from the kit.