Let’s shine some light on this subject
See if this scenario sounds familiar: You’re spending a quiet evening in with your significant other cuddled up on the couch. After an exhaustive search on Netflix, you finally find a movie you both can agree on. You’ve got your freshly microwaved popcorn, perhaps a couple of glasses of wine, and just as the music and credits start, you think “This is nice, why don’t we do this more often?”
But suddenly, your TV – along with all the lights – goes out.
After the groans, sighs, and/or expletives and a prolonged period sitting in the dark, hoping against all hope that everything will turn back on any second now, you reluctantly get up to see if you can remember where you put the flashlights.
If this has happened to you before – and perhaps multiple times – you’re certainly not alone. The power has gone out on all of us at one point or another. However, the concerning part is that this is now occurring more often. So, why is this happening? Here we take a look at the common culprits.
What causes power outages?
In South Florida, we’re lucky in that we don’t have to worry about taxing our heating systems during the winter like many other parts of the country. However, we all know hot how it can get here during the summers when the mercury gets especially high, and we all crank the AC up, sometimes the power grid can reach a breaking point.
How often do you see a bent or broken utility pole when you’re out driving? Often power outages happen because of a careless (or perhaps intoxicated) driver slams into one.
And while this can happen anywhere, anybody who’s ever driven around Florida knows that our motorists aren’t the best when it comes to operating their vehicles. On the plus side, they’re not the very worst.
There’s a reason those “Call 811 Before Digging” signs are everywhere. When diggers and backhoes (or maybe your brother-in-law insisting he can put in his own pool) start tearing into the earth, it’s not difficult for underground cables to get damaged.
If you’ve ever been on the internet, you are well aware that animals can get into the darndest places. And while this can often be funny, it’s no laughing matter when a snake or squirrel or raccoon chews through a line or does something else to turn the power off.
Okay, let’s discuss the 800-pound gorilla, the elephant in the room, or any other apt analogies you can think of when it comes to climate change.
The fact is that not only are storms occurring more often now than they used to, but their severity is also increasing. We see this firsthand in South Florida every year, with hurricanes becoming more frequent and powerful.
Since 2002, electric companies around the U.S. have reported over 2,500 major power outages, and more than 1,170 of them were related to severe weather, which affected 211 million customers.
This means that the weather is to blame for about 65 outages every year. And according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, they’re only going to get worse, as our energy system “is projected to be increasingly threatened by more frequent and longer-lasting power outages.”
The Southeast is particularly vulnerable, the assessment found, with 69 plants that generate electricity at risk for storm surge created by Category 5 hurricanes. With a sea-rise of one meter, many of these plants would be susceptible to flooding.
And while we’ve always had bad and dangerous weather, says Saifur Rahman, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech, it is “happening more frequently and extremely now. We are having a 500-year flood every five years.”
Some good news for a change
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to climate change. While we’ll just have to wait to see what the effects are from reducing carbon emissions, some electric companies are being proactive.
Florida Power & Light Co., for example, has spent billions fortifying its network against hurricanes. In addition to strengthening power lines and moving some of them underground, eventually, all of their towers will be made of concrete or steel.
At Universal Electrical Services, while we can’t do anything about the weather or nosy raccoons, we can make sure your home or business has the most up-to-date fuse panels and fixtures. Get in touch to let us know what electrical services you need.