Wife Leaves Husband over Power Outages and other Tales from this Year’s Eaton Blackout Tracker

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Blackout Tracker

Credit; FEMA photo/Andrea Booher

We know that power outages cost businesses a lot of money, but they apparently can play havoc with relationships too, according to the new Blackout Tracker by Eaton.

The annual report again offers a colorful glimpse into the comedy and tragedy that plays out on the power grid when the lights blink out, which happened about 3,571 times last year in the United States.

The good news is that there were about 60 fewer power outages in 2015 compared with 2014.

The bad news is that our increasingly severe weather appears to make outages last longer. Just a five percent increase in wind speed can lengthen the duration of a power outage by 56 percent. And 10 percent more rain means that the lights may be out 10 percent longer, according to a study Eaton quoted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University

With electricity so vital to the U.S. economy, power outages are expensive; they can cost Fortune 500 businesses $890,000 per week and are now one of the leading causes for insurance ‘loss of business continuity’ claims.

Power outages also appear to be hard on marriages, at least in India, where a 32-year-old wife in Allahabad divorced her husband after he refused to eat dinner during the all-to-common power outages in their region. Who wants that many cold meals?

Keep an eye on your spouse’s mood if you live in California – that’s the state where the most power outages occurred in 2015, a distinction California has held for three years running on the Blackout Tracker. Next in line was Texas, followed by New York, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Indiana. (Little surprise that we’re seeing microgrid development spring up in several of these states.)

Wyoming won the prize for the least number of power outages last year – four. The Blackout Tracker doesn’t explain why but perhaps there is a dearth of squirrels in Wyoming. Among critters causing power outages in the U.S., squirrels by 2 to 1 outstripped birds, the next most frequent culprit.

Animals actually accounted for a relatively small number of grid calamities. Not surprisingly, weather caused the most outages (1,069) followed closely by faulty equipment or human error (942), according to Eaton.

But one never knows what’s the cause when the lights go out, as they did for 13.2 million people in 2015.

It might have been a drone gone awry. That’s what happened in West Hollywood in June. A man flew the drone into power lines and knocked out power to 627 customers of Southern California Edison. In Liberty, Texas, tent caterpillars were to blame; they blanketed transformers. In Maryland, a blimp came untethered from its mooring and knocked out power to 20,000 people by dragging its cable through power lines.

Do you know who’s not to blame for a power outage? Taylor Swift. The Blackout Tracker reports that contrary to popular belief her performance at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. did not lead to the power outages that suspended the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers game July 17. It was, in fact,  a faulty circuit breaker.

No one wants to be left in the dark. But hey, it’s not always a bad thing. When a creamery lost power in August, the owners discovered that they had some good neighbors. More than 20 volunteers showed up to help milk 53 goats, in what the report described as an “udder blackout success story.”

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A microgrid is a discrete energy system consisting of distributed energy sources (e.g. renewables, conventional, storage) and loads capable of operating in parallel with, or independently from, the main grid. The primary purpose is to ensure reliable, affordable energy security for commercial, industrial and federal government consumers. Benefits that extend to utilities and the community at large include lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lower stress on the transmission and distribution system.

The “Blackout Tracker: United States Annual Report” can be downloaded from Eaton’s website.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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