Getting the lights back on in Venezuela

Still black in Venezuela. hz housewife flagged a very important Jo Nova post on the problems of getting up a collapsed grid.
Quote.
History books will be written about this crisis. Matias Delacroix points out in Wired, that it’s very difficult to restart a decentralized grid which has been badly managed and poorly maintained. No one knows exactly what went wrong to bring it down, but fingers are pointing at the huge Guri Hydro plant, which provides a whopping 80% of the electricity.

Normally a blackstart begins with a small diesel unit to kick over a bigger turbine. Then the whole grid is gradually rebuilt bit by bit by “bootstrapping”. At all times the supply has to match the demand, so before an engineer throws the switch someone has to have already done the numbers to make sure things will stay balanced. As each new generator-load segment is added it must also match the frequency and phase set up by the original first generator. It would be dangerous to set up a bunch of little separate grids and then try to meld them together. Getting the frequency or phase wrong can cause explosions. Hence the grid must be built from one point out, and carefully. Wind or solar generators can’t be used in a black start, but a large Hydro plant should be able to do that, assuming people can open the water gates, but restarting a badly managed grid means there are many fragile failure points that don’t reboot properly. After days of darkness it must also be difficult to estimate how much load will be waiting to take new power.

There is more detail about the problems, and an UPDATE FROM THE COMMENTS

Performing a “black start” is no simple matter.

The primary problem is that everything that was connected to the grid when it crashed is still connected. So essentially, the Load is a “Dead Short” from the perspective of Generation.

Every inductive load (induction motors) takes 6 times the normal running current to start each and every one. In terms of real and imaginary (complex) power components, the Load appears to be almost purely inductive with a Real component vector of nearly zero.

Essentially, Generation must provide 6 times the power it was providing when the grid failed and that reserve simply doesn’t exist. So energizing a substation is an explosive event.

The safest / only way to restart the grid is to isolate all of the loads except residential loads and bring up the lower voltage substations (10 kV) gradually in a controlled fashion. The residential load has resistive components ( water heaters, clothes dryers, cooking ovens, etc ) that help reduce the inductive component and provide a unity power factor component to the apparent load.

Only after the lower voltage grid is stabilized can the higher voltage transmission lines and substations (110 kV to 750 + kV)be re-energized. Even so, it is a precarious dance of balancing generated power with apparent power.

When the generator is connected to the load, it “sees” a reflected wave coming back to the generator that trips the overload safeties and causes the turbine/alternator to disconnect if the apparent power exceeds safe limits. If those safeties aren’t functional, the risk is an exploding substation, alternator, sheared turbine shaft, etc.

This is a nightmare scenario. No sane person ever wants to “smoke test” a power grid by trying a black start. The ramifications are frightening.

This is specifically why keeping a stable grid operational is a lot smarter than trying to roll the dice with intermittent generation and sudden changes in loads.

Greens ought to give the situation in Venezuela a very serious consideration before destabilizing the existing grid in any location on earth.

My guess is it will take 3 to 6 months to restart the grid in Venezuela, even if things go swimmingly. If a few substations and alternators are blown out, it could take 2 years. Longer if some turbines are damaged.

Substation transformers are custom made to order. They do not exist “in stock on hand” at the power levels needed on a national grid scale. Unit substations might be available in smaller sizes, say 50 to 100 MW. But the high voltage and higher power switchgear and transformers can be a 1 to 2 year lead time item even if you have the cash to pay for them.

This is a teachable moment. Smart people will pause and reflect upon what is happening, lest it happen elsewhere. This is not a game sane people want to play. Societies melt down in a matter of days to weeks without electric power, water, food, transportation, communication, etc.

We’ve yet to see how bad this is going to get. It will get a LOT worse before it gets better.

Someone might like to explain the difference between getting South Australia up in three days while the rest of the SE Australian grid was working and recovering from a blackout in Victoria, for example.

This entry was posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe, Socialism. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Getting the lights back on in Venezuela

  1. Roberto

    I hadn’t realised it was so complex.

    Enlightening, and scary too.

  2. Mark M

    Horror, fear, despair’: Venezuela’s oil capital shattered by ‘tsunami’ of violent looting

    https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/26/venezuela-maracaibo-power-electricity-looting

    “In the second city of Maracaibo, the crippling blackout sparked a terrifying rampage that police seemed unable to control.

    El demonio,” says Betty Méndez, a local shopkeeper, by way of explanation for the wave of looting and unrest that convulsed Maracaibo earlier this month.

    Most, however, describe the mayhem in psychiatric terms: a collective breakdown that shocked this lakeside city to its core and offered a terrifying glimpse of Venezuela’s possible future as it sinks deeper into economic, political and social decline.

  3. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    This is a teachable moment. Smart people will pause and reflect upon what is happening, lest it happen elsewhere. This is not a game sane people want to play. Societies melt down in a matter of days to weeks without electric power, water, food, transportation, communication, etc
    .
    We’ve yet to see how bad this is going to get. It will get a LOT worse before it gets better.

    Someone might like to explain the difference between getting South Australia up in three days while the rest of the SE Australian grid was working and recovering from a blackout in Victoria, for example.

    So, what do our Electrical Engineering Departments in universities have to say about this?

    Oh, sorry, I forgot. They are mostly run by a deep green professoriate who put all of their attention into electric vehicles, and who answer to mostly deep green chancelleries of senior academics who run things.

    Probably nothing to see here in that case. Renewables as usual.
    Why think when you don’t have to?

  4. Bruce of Newcastle

    The electricity grid is also probably run by party hacks, like the oil company. And every exploded transformer, of which there apparently have been more than a few, means long lead times and hard currency.

  5. Dr Fred Lenin

    Its elucidating to actually watch socialism at work in these modern times , we all read about the terrible socialist stuff ups of the past but to actuslly see what happens when a bunch of overconfident incopetent idea;ists try to do a real job it is a real lesson . It may prepare us a bit for the bunch of incompetent “socialist”fools who will be taking over Australia soon . The liberal branch of the socialists has already paved the way for a grid breakdown helping the turnbulls make another fortune from the renewable scam ,,to add to the one made by the funny mercury polluting light globes . The globes will be of little use when the left wing of the socialists increases renewables , to increase turnbulls profits and pull the grid down to Venezuela standards .career politicians are useless.

  6. barry

    “Engineers Australia”, supposedly the peak body for Engineering in Australia, is likewise silent on keeping the lights on, being totally captured by the large contractors who love their 457 visa workforce.

  7. Diogenes

    And every exploded transformer, of which there apparently have been more than a few, means


    they have been sabotaged by the Opposition & the CIA.

    This will become the talking point/narrative/ “lesson learnt” by Greens & other assorted lefties

  8. Roger

    “Engineers Australia”, supposedly the peak body for Engineering in Australia, is likewise silent on keeping the lights on…

    Didn’t they make Yassmin Abdel-Magied their poster girl?

    We’re doomed.

    Best advice, buy a generator.

  9. Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV)

    Venezuela has taken an important step towards the only true equality and that is total DARKNESS. For we know light has many colours hidden within, and only the total absence of light can bring about eternal equality.

    All must kneel before the most equitable Lord Marx for his divine vision.

  10. stackja

    Guaido rallies Venezuelans amid blackout
    Vivian Sequera and Tibisay Romero, Reuters
    March 28, 2019 6:27am

    Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called on his supporters to take to the streets this weekend in protest of a major nationwide blackout that has left millions without power for three straight days.

    Residents scrambled to find food and water as businesses closed and school was cancelled in the second major blackout this month.

    Power went out in much of the country on Monday afternoon, less than two weeks after electricity was restored following the worst blackout in Venezuela’s history.

    “The time has come to agitate in every state, in every community, to get water back, get electricity back, get gas back,” said Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly who invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January. He argued President Nicolas Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

  11. Kneel

    “I hadn’t realised it was so complex.”

    Indeed – most people don’t.
    The other side is the sheer scale of the system – if you have never walked through a working 2.4GW power station, you will be surprised at the size involved. I have a photo somewhere of my car (at the time, a 1985 model Holden Commodore) sitting next to the the cooling water intake pumps at Eraring power station. There are 6 pumps (one for each unit, plus 2 spares), each about 6MW (about 8,000 horsepower each). The pipes that feed the water to the cooling water canal from the pumps are big enough to fit that car inside (in the photo, one pipe is removed and the car is next to it). Or when you see video/photos of the cooling towers (the short, squat towers with lots of steam coming out the top), you’ll notice a small “zig-zag” structure at the bottom – it lets air in. This part (the zig-zag bit) is 4m tall. That should give you an idea of the scale. And remember, we need about 12 of these 2.4GW power stations, all flat out, for peak load on the eastern seaboard – that’s with no back-up in case of failure, so in reality, more like 18 or more of them.
    To enable possible “black start” scenarios, Eraring also has a couple of gas turbines (ie, 747 engines connected to big alternators 🙂 ) running on ( IIRC ) natural gas. With 3 or 4 of these going at 10MW each, there is enough juice (if one is careful) to start a 660MW unit, which can then be used to start the next couple of units, then start the next power station etc, etc.
    I don’t know if they still do it, but in the day there used to be times when they set up the switching etc to “fake” a black start to ensure the system can be restored. This “test” often failed at the first try, one time because they couldn’t start the turbines at Warragamba (that’s why they got the gas turbines at Eraring, AFAIK).

  12. stackja

    Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV)
    #2972474, posted on March 28, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    President Nicolas Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

  13. max

    This paints a rather optimistic scenario. It takes it up to around 2 years.

    Let’s say over two years you make a few mistakes and you damage some of the infrastructure mentioned in the post. You rebuild the blown out transformers and exploded turbines. Then you have to go through the whole business again, starting slowly and extending out. The same risks and dangers remain. More explosions, more burnouts. It won’t be easy.

    More like 5 years if it goes as described.

  14. Fat Tony

    barry
    #2972453, posted on March 28, 2019 at 12:24 pm
    “Engineers Australia”, supposedly the peak body for Engineering in Australia, is likewise silent on keeping the lights on, being totally captured by the large contractors who love their 457 visa workforce.

    I cancelled my membership of that august body last year – for the above reasons

  15. hzhousewife

    Best advice, buy a generator.

    Got one yourself yet Roger?
    In our suburban situation I figure it’s an unworkable prospect.
    Fuel, noise, gas availability?
    Camping equipment might be the go, fire pit in the backyard.

  16. John Constantine

    The downfall of western industrial civilisation and the Great economic genocide of capitalism is the openly boasted intent of the great transnational looting cartels.

    Blowing up the enemies power stations is so much easier to do by bribing the enemies own politicians to spend their own money doing it.

    Comrades.

  17. Roger

    Camping equipment might be the go, fire pit in the backyard.

    Any back up plan is better than none, hz.

  18. Muddy

    Crikey. I was not aware of that. Thanks for informative post, including several of the comments.

  19. RobK

    The grid is designed to be protected from fault-currents.
    Many circuit breakers can be remotely switched and have a battery backup. Normally a tripped breaker isolates a fault and gives an indication of where, and even what, might be the cause. The fault has to be made good before reconnecting the power. With any blackout there is the likelihood of faults developing whilst de-energised. In effect, the fault could be anywhere so the entire load needs to be tested or tried. As the duration of the blackout increases, battery backup for auto control gear starts to fail (as does mobile and other communications).
    Much of Venezuela’s problems are political.
    An increasingly renewable energy grid has issues of increasing complexity (more potential points of failure) and escalating costs associated with increased penetration of RE. The requirements for massive sudsidies, regulation and oversight to bring about a change that is based on the CO2 conjecture, ironically, will most likely only be symbolic and create a massive drag on the economy.

  20. ArthurB

    Climate change is one of a number of topics on which rational debate is no longer possible (or permitted). The minds of the Greens and the Left are totally closed against any argument that opposes their ideological beliefs.

    Engineers are rational beings, and they must know that if you design, build and maintain power stations using Marxist ideology rather than the laws of physics, you will not produce cheap reliable electricity.

    I would like to know what goes on when politicians demand that renewables replace power stations that use fossil fuels. Do the engineers and civil servants tell the politicians that greater use of renewables will lead to power that is expensive and unreliable? I would love to see a Royal Commission which would investigate how decisions about power generation are made, and who makes them.

  21. Rohan

    barry
    #2972453, posted on March 28, 2019 at 12:24 pm
    “Engineers Australia”, supposedly the peak body for Engineering in Australia, is likewise silent on keeping the lights on, being totally captured by the large contractors who love their 457 visa workforce.

    Not everyone within IEAust is on the Green ruinable energy train Barry. Granted many within the senior heirarchy are. The last edition of Energy Source and Distribution has an article on page 7 by EESA national president Dr Robert Barr. EESA is the IEAust subdivision for electrical power systems engineers. He’s not drinking from the cool-aid and is just as concerned about the state of the grid as we are. His closing 2 lines are:

    History repeats itself albeit for totally different reasons. Lessons learned from the 1950’s need to be relearned again.

    He links that to the Trove article: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/18361000

  22. RobK

    If you must have a renewables grid, this paper outlines how to go about it. It has many references to issues to over come. The academics have flagged the problems; its just the cost, which ramps up, that is not transparent. Ive linked this before but its the best I’ve found.
    State-of-the-art of hosting capacity in modern power systems with distributed generation

    Abstract

    Currently, renewable energy is rapidly developing across the world in response to technical, economic and environmental developments, as well as political and social initiatives. On the other hand, excessive penetration of distributed generation (DG) systems into electrical networks may lead to various problems and operational limit violations, such as over and under voltages, excessive line losses, overloading of transformers and feeders, protection failure and high harmonic distortionlevels exceeding the limits of international standards. These problems occur when the system exceeds its hosting capacity (HC) limit. The HC is a transactive approach that provides a way for the distribution network to be integrated with different types of energy systems. Accordingly, HC assessment and enhancements become an essential target for both distribution system operators and DG investors. This paper provides, for the first time, a systematic and extensive overview of the HC research, developments, assessment techniques and enhancement technologies. The paper consists of four HC principal sections: historical developments, performance limits, perceptions and enhancement techniques. Besides, practical experiences of system operators, energy marketsand outcomes gained from real case studies are presented and discussed. It was concluded that success in integrating more distributed generation hinges on accurate hosting capacity assessment.

  23. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Camping equipment might be the go, fire pit in the backyard.

    That’s our suburban backstop position. Firepit down the back, camping gaz stove, plus the bottled gas bbq and some spare filled gas bottles. Candles, LED battery lighting and matches. A bath and big plastic containers full of drinking water, extra bottled water from the regularly refilled stash, the toilets run by removing a drainage pipe from clear quality rainwater seepage coming downhill and filling buckets from it for toilet water, swim-shower in harbor pool instead of chlorine pool gone swampy. Firepit run by trees on the block, some low-hanging deadwood deliberately left up there. First aid kit handy, plus the axe for firewood and unwanted intruders.

    A crate of tinned cat food for Attapuss refilled as we go plus big paks of dry cat kibbles; same for basic storage of human food: always replenished tins of baked beans and well-sealed pastas and rice in the pantry, plus some sauces. Hairy’s expensive stock of laid-down wines can also take a hit in such dire times; a compensatory mechanism. 🙂

    Have to eat up the freezer and fridge stuff first, so probably a short blackout matter too much to us.
    Except for the way in which recurrent blackouts will destroy the economy.
    And trap people in lifts and create havoc in travel and communications.

  24. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Car radios for communications.
    Perhaps invest in some fun carrier pigeons for contacting family and friends if mobies are out.
    A return to board games and cards for family entertainment, plus musical instruments.
    Hey, this is sounding betterer and betterer. Who needs modernity? 🙂

  25. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    I would love to see a Royal Commission which would investigate how decisions about power generation are made, and who makes them.

    It could do that at the same time as investigating whether ‘the science’ is anything like settled.

  26. Boambee John

    Roger at 1235

    Best advice, buy a generator.

    Don’t watch much FTA TV, but last night just before 1800, there was an ad for home generators. Didn’t get the exact words, but something about ensuring power for your home.

  27. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    You know, carrier pigeons make good eating too.
    All those ancient monasteries had their big pigeon houses for roosting birds.

    The guano is valuable too. The pigeon houses of distinctive architecture that we saw as a feature all over the Greek island of Tinos used pigeon guano as the main means of fertilizing the scratched-out living the people made from the thousands of year old exhausted soil.

    If the blackouts continued we could all develop a backyard lot of broody chooks and king rooster, fertilizing a vegie patch with their poo. Backyard pools could convert to fishponds. And my fruit trees will come into their own: we will have mulberry, pomegranate, guava, lemon, orange, lime, olive and fig. Unit dwellers could grow flowers in window boxes and balconies to exchange for our garden produce.

    Look, I can see us re-living the Surbiton Good Life, and bags I be Felicity Kendall although some might say I am these days better suited to being Penelope Keith. 🙂

  28. Dr Fred Lenin

    Liz ,eating carrier pigeons reminds me of Blackadders Very Fair Trial , very much like Pells it was ,guilty before a word was said in court .

  29. flyingduk

    Best advice, buy a generator.

    Pay cash, get a very quiet one, and hide it, before they need licences.

  30. Arky

    A crate of tinned cat food for Attapuss refilled as we go plus big paks of dry cat kibbles;

    ..
    Eat the cat: double saving.

  31. Ironing Mike

    Think about it. We’re ten days into a grid-down scenario. There are hungry mobs of deranged individuals roaming the streets (pharmacies have not been dispensing meds for over a week). What would tell you that a dwelling still has a supply of fresh food in its freezer, ripe for the looting? Prominent solar panels on display or a noisy generator, that’s what.

  32. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Lawless dystopia is a very unpleasant place, Ironing Mike (what a great handle, I like men who can iron). In reality, I hope we never get anywhere near such a dystopian world. Still, forewarned and forearmed, as above.

  33. tombell

    we are going back to the dark ages – literally.

  34. Neville

    Roberto above says: “I hadn’t realised it was so complex.”
    No disrespect intended whatsoever, Roberto, but .. you’re not alone.
    Millions upon millions of people RELY on a modern electricity grid to run the 21st century, and their lives, and they have NO IDEA what’s involved. Millions upon millions of people would very smartly (weeks?, coupla month?, most certainly within a year) revert to savagery, quite vicious and callous fighting for food and water, and societal collapse without grid electricity.
    And yet these intellectual imbeciles, these macroeconomic morons, these cretinous, corrupt marxians, the lefty-labor-greeny blob, who somehow still manage to walk and breathe despite such an astonishingly low-powered central nervous system, would have us swap a modern high-powered efficient baseload electricity grid for an intermittent, diffused, low-output, high-cost (oh so much higher cost!) souped-up AA battery set with fairy-fart fans and claptrap daylight ‘power panels’, where their rosy-eyed unicorn-driven dreams fondly imagine that somehow, some way, THAT is the way to power the 21st century.
    Meh!! And the killer sting in the tail is that they will never, never, ever admit what they deep-down inside their hearts KNOW to be the truth! Why? Because they CAN’T admit it! To do so would deconstruct the pious virtue-signalling, would reveal them to be the liars, hypocrites, and money-hungry and power-grubbing sleazy little trough-snouters that they are. And would result in their violent ejection from the lefty-labor-greeny blob, whose sole purpose in life in the attainment of (P)ower and (C)ontrol, which is the REAL meaning of (P)olitical (C)orrectness, the ultimate goal of cultural marxism, in a political and ideological war to the death by the modern-day demons of the left.

  35. rickw

    Great article Rafe!

    Best advice, buy a generator.

    Yep, they are bent on wrecking the place, no amount of examples or commonsense will divert them from their destructive mission.

    I just hope that when the lights go out, and societies wolves come out to play, that they head to the right suburbs to go marauding, plunder the wealthy idiots and politicians who made this disaster.

  36. hzhousewife

    And yet these intellectual imbeciles, these macroeconomic morons, these cretinous, corrupt marxians, the lefty-labor-greeny blob, who somehow still manage to walk and breathe despite such an astonishingly low-powered central nervous system,

    Describes Di Natale perfectly.
    And to think how derisive lefties are about preppers. This household will be renewing its efforts a la Lizzie!

  37. max

    Home generators need fuel. What happens when the gas and petrol pumps don’t/ can’t work ?
    Candles ?

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