Lights Out by Ted Koppel

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Matt In Oklahoma 1 week, 1 day ago.

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  • #965


    Lights Out by Ted Koppel is a non-fiction book about the weaknesses of US electrical grid and the possibility of it going down.

    In this book he states that there are many very huge electrical transformers that are so large that they required trains to move them and that those tracks have since been removed. Also, that these are no longer manufactured in the US and they take 2 – 3 years to manufacture. Should the whole US grid go down, these transformers would be basically impossible to replace.

    I am not an electrical engineer, but I have to wonder couldn’t these transformers be replaced, at least for a few months or years while the grid is being repaired, with several smaller transformers in parallel?

    Hopefully somebody here and electrical engineer with power distribution experience here that can give a definitive answer to this.

  • #971

    Crow Bar

    I read the book, have it on my bookshelf.
    As I understood it, those really big transformers, not only require a long time to make as they are custom made, but the infrastructure needed to move them in some places have been removed.
    How many heavy rail systems have been replaced with trails?
    Dont get me wrong, I like the trails they are great.

    I think, as you stated, maybe a better way just might be building the grid as a smaller system, many independent systems.

    There is another book called The Grid, that talks about many of the issues our electrical system has.

  • #977


    Crow Bar: Is this the book you mentioned:

    The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future by Gretchen Bakke

    Or maybe this one?

    The Grid: Biography of an American Technology (The MIT Press) by
    Julie A Cohn

    I’m not familiar with the trails you mentioned. What are those?

  • #978


    Power companies don’t perform any maintenance on existing infrastructure unless it fails. Every year when winter storms outen the lights the damage is to old equipment and lines. That’s when it gets fixed.

  • #980

    Crow Bar

    @No Money,
    The first The Grid by Bakke is the book I read.

    Rails to Trails is a system where old, generally heavy railways that were no longer being used,were converted into walking/bike trails for the community.

    I think Koppel was referring to those railways systems no longer existing.

  • #1019

    Letssee Whatwecando

    I had my eyes opened by the Koppel book. Just gave my copy to the director of emergency services in our area. He’d head of it but hadn’t read it. NOT a good bedtime read unless you have stronger nerves than I do.

  • #1022


    I thought it was a great book to help folks who haven’t thought it through to realize that it’s not going to be as easy as they hoped.

  • #1024

    John Wick

    I just recently picked this book up. I heard of it before from reading fictional book called One Second After by William R. Forstchen. Although it is fiction, the author is known to be fairly realistic and brings up the concerns we have with the grid.

    I am not an Electrical Engineer, but I do have a degree in Electronics Engineering Technology. We deal with smaller components and DC,not AC. But a small transformer is a coil of wire around either an iron core or other material on one side (primary) and then another coil of wire around the other end of the iron core/material (secondary). The number of windings on each coil determines if the voltage is stepped up, down, or the same. So, I would imagine the bigger ones are an extremely giant form of this, but using special material to make them more efficient (if that is possible). This doesn’t break it down precisely, but maybe helps to understand the concept behind the transformer. I would like to think that in modern times, they could replace them with much smaller transformer. The other reason is for the raw material, such as copper and special steel to make the transformers.

  • #1070

    Crow Bar

    I think in areas that were heavily damaged by hurricanes, could benefit from modernizing, the grid in those areas.

    Unfortunately, it seems they always go the lowest cost route, and we end up back in the same place we were prior to the event.

  • #2455


    @Crow Bar I have just finished reading the book you mentioned: The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future by Gretchen Bakke

    This book is recommended by Bill Gates, it says so on the cover, so the perspective is from the viewpoint of a climate change believer and a “smart grid” believer. Book says that integrating big solar and wind power is difficult because those sources are variable and to keep the grid balanced it needs to be constant. Says that most homes with solar power don’t even have a battery bank as they simply feed it into the grid.

    The basic premise I took away from the book is that nobody knows yet how to make a stable grid using wind and solar or really what to do to make a smart grid. So they don’t yet have a plan for the future so they don’t do anything to improve the grid because that don’t know how, yet. This being the reason they only fix it when it breaks down. Lots of pie in the sky visionary stuff that might or might not get here in our lifetimes.

    She talks about blackouts and Superstorm Sandy but makes no mention of prepping or the dangers of EMP, CME or cyber attacks bringing the grid down. Makes no mention of a full grid down situation. Ignore it and it can’t happen, right!

  • #21889


    I also have the book, Lights Out. That was a good book. More of a wake up call. Didn’t know about the one called the Grid. Will have to check that one out to read. Though from what no money said, without saying how we can prepare, we just have to keep an open mind and do research for those answers as how to prepare for a grid down situation.

  • #21893


    batteries will become more integrated once peak demand cost of set a charge and hold price from cheaper hours. With new gold nano tubules battery on the horizon with massive storange and deep cycling will changet things. The always on and available power is a not well thought out issue. What they really mean is power on tap when required so peak demand can be met. To make more $$$ on micro hydro you back log by minimizing flow during non peak hours and turn on full during peak using the stored water.



  • #30804

    Matt In Oklahoma

    I really enjoyed the book. I don’t get caught up in the technicals but rather the message of what if’s and preparedness. I found the characters to be relatable

    • #30819

      Crow Bar

      Which book?

      One Second After?

      Or Lights Out?

    • #30821

      Matt In Oklahoma

      Both actually. I recommend them to new folks. They get the brain moving.

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