"A Drill to Replace Crucial Transformers (Not the Hollywood Kind)"

The nation's entire electrical grid depends on about 2,100 high-voltage transformers spread throughout the country. Recently, engineers and homeland security officials held a drill to practice replacing one or more if some are knocked out.

"The electric grid, which keeps beer cold, houses warm, and city traffic from turning to chaos, depends on about 2,100 high-voltage transformers spread throughout the country.

But engineers in the electric business and officials with the Department of Homeland Security have long been concerned that transformers are vulnerable to disruptions from extreme weather like hurricanes, as well as terrorist and computer attacks and even electrical disturbances from geomagnetic, or so-called solar, storms. One such storm, in 1989, blacked out the entire province of Quebec, and this week, a transformer fire of unknown origin blacked out parts of Boston.

And while replacing transformers is not technically difficult, it is a logistical and time-consuming nightmare that can take up to two years.

So this week the industry and the government have been carrying out an emergency drill unlike any that electrical engineers can remember, to explore how quickly the country could recover from a crippling blow to the power grid. Twelve trucks drove 800 miles from St. Louis to Houston to deliver three 'recovery transformers.' When they arrived on Tuesday afternoon, workers began to install them as quickly as possible — reducing a task that normally takes weeks to several days."

Matthew L. Wald reports for the New York Times March 14, 2012.



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Source: NY Times, 03/15/2012