A key link in the nation’s electric grid was the focus this week of a drill by the electric industry and the Department of Homeland Security, The New York Times reports.
There are about 2,100 high-voltage transformers across the country that act like highway interchanges on the electric grid. But experts and government officials think they are vulnerable to extreme weather events and terrorist acts. The size of a typical high-voltage transformer makes it hard to replace in an emergency. From the Times story:
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.
“If you have to order a transformer from someplace, it’s two years to do it,” said Richard J. Lordan, a senior technical expert at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit consortium based in Palo Alto, Calif.