Was This Just Vandalism?

500kV power towers like these are unprotected and vulnerable to simple attack.
500kV power towers like these are unprotected and vulnerable to simple attack.

Back in August, a person or persons unknown attempted to bring down one of the two 500kV main transmission lines feeding electricity into Arkansas and surrounding states.

The loss of one of the two transmission lines would have overloaded the other line, causing it to also fail, and plunging a not disclosed region (but potentially several states) into darkness for an uncertain amount of time, and at one of the hottest times of year when electricity is desperately needed for air conditioning.

The FBI now have a $20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever was responsible.

Details here.

Other attacks have occurred on our electrical grid in the past, and likely may continue in the future.  And whether such events are merely mindless vandalism or indicative of darker forces really doesn’t make much difference when/if one suddenly finds oneself without power.

The interesting thing about this attack is that it was not on a transformer or power switching substation.  It was simply on one of the many thousands of totally undefended pylons from which the power lines are strung.

Our country takes for granted that every time we flick a switch, power obediently flows as we wish it to.  But this is far from a guaranteed thing, as the events in August show.

One Reply to “Was This Just Vandalism?”

  1. n4aof

    The most disturbing aspect of all this is that the “National Grid” that enables power companies to buy and sell power with each other, combined with the computerization that makes the process of buying and selling power practical and nearly fully automatic, is that we are now more vulnerable to widespread power disruption rather than less vulnerable.

    Years ago, the loss of even a major transmission line would have only interrupted power to the customers on that line – now the fully computerized grid is so fragile that any loss of a transmission line will trip various “safety” cut outs causing a widespread blackout. While the computers can cut power to a multi-state area in a fraction of a second, restoring power requires an operator to manually verify each segment of the power system before manually ordering the computer to restore that segment – a process that must be repeated for each individual segment of the system.

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