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Power Outage Solution: Decentralization of Power Generation

Updated on December 5, 2011
tree limb on power line after Tropical Storm Irene moved through.
tree limb on power line after Tropical Storm Irene moved through. | Source

The power has finally been restored to majority of Connecticut after 100’s of thousands were without light or heat for over a week! For the second time in the last two and a half months many residents in Connecticut lost power for a substantial amount of time. Many didn't have power for a week after tropical storm Irene blew through. Then a historic and freak snowstorm blanketed the state with over a foot of snow in many areas! The snow accumulated on trees that had yet to change color, let alone lose their leaves. The weight of the snow was disastrous bringing down trees and power lines. It was another seven to ten days, more for some, that many spent in the dark and this time in the cold! Many nights after the snowstorm, unlike the hurricane, temperatures dropped below freezing. this lead to many people using generators to try and heat their homes and unfortunately leading to a number of deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Not only was the tree damage worse from snowtober but the weather following the storm was more dangerous, after Irene the weather was beautiful with sunny skies and seasonable but generally cool dry temperatures.

It’s amazing that the two worst power outages in the state of Connecticut happened within two months of each other. It makes you question a number of things from are we getting more disastrous storms? Are power companies like CL&P (Connecticut Light and Power) or the UI (The United Illuminating company) are cutting corners resulting in a much slower response? Or perhaps there is something we can do with the power grid to prevent such huge power outages? …

Many of the issues that the power companies faced with restoring power in the last two storms was not the generation of power but the transporting of it to peoples towns and homes. With majority of the states power supply lines being through above ground power lines and the states huge tree to person ratio, it is easy to see why so many people lost power. So a number of solutions have been proposed from the very expensive idea of putting all utilities underground to the less expensive (or so many believe) cutting down of trees. Cutting down the trees may be a quick and cheaper solution at first but many parts of Connecticut are known for their tiny winding roads shaded by giant oaks that stand guard at the edge of the road. Connecticut wouldn't be what it is today without the large tree coverage that makes it such an idyllic New England state. Add in all the environmental issues of runoff, air pollution, and destruction of habitat that this would create and the idea of cutting down trees doesn't looks so cheap anymore. So I think a good solution might rely with the location of our power sources. Why don’t we decentralize power generation? Many areas of the country get their power generation from hundreds of miles away, relying on the long distance transport to light their homes. If we decentralize where power is created and made closer, more local sources, major power outages would be fixed quicker because they could at least supply emergency buildings within a town right away instead of waiting for the power companies to work their way in from the outside. The faster isolated communities can get power back the less likely lives will be lost!

so how would we decentralize power supply?

There are a number of ways to decentralize regional power supplies and many of them have to do with alternative energy. Remember when everyone is out of power, if you could just get one building up and running it can make a huge difference. So those thinking how are you supposed to supply a whole town with alternative energy all the time, the answer is you don’t. By setting up local sources of power via alternative energy you have a backup plan during an emergency and a helpful provider of energy when things are fine, perhaps even saving some money on bills! There are even a number of ways to do this on the local level from supplying individual houses with solar panels to setting up wind turbines for a neighborhood or even using government buildings as power plants when not in use. I give an example of using schools as power sources through solar panels in this hub: “Solar Panels in Schools: Illuminating light bulbs in the mind and in your home

These local power supplies would also benefit greatly when your town or city is not impacted by a storm but when the lines have been broken somewhere in between the power plant and your town. It will also produce cleaner energy every day allowing your town to rely less on the power plants and power companies lowering your bills. You could even argue that if enough towns did this it would create jobs all across the nation while lowering a dependence on foreign oil for power consumption. The benefits are universal!


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