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Old 01-28-09, 04:23 PM   #1
groar
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Default hit by a black out

As 1.7 million other houses in south of France, we have been hit by a black out Saturday morning. In my region, the wind blown at 126 km/h (78 mph) with a max of 196 km/h (121 mph) in France. The tempest also touched Portugal, Spain and Italy. Happily nor my house, nor neighbors', nor friends', nor families' were damaged.

The black out happened in my village at 10:45 AM, after more than 5 hours of strong wind. Only 15 minutes later the wind stopped... The water stopped a couple hours later, as the pumps didn't had electricity to pump-up the water in the water tower. The phone stopped around the same moment, at least this what I was told as at this moment I couldn't use the wireless phone 'cause it need AC.

As nearly everything is using electricity at home we had to organize ourselves... For the water, we had 20 liters (5.3 gallons) in bottles. For heating, we moved some pieces of furniture in the living room to access the chimney into which we put some wood. As we rarely use it, we had to buy some wood to be sure to have enough for 3 days. For cooking, we are daily using butane in 13 liters (3.4 gallons) bottles so the only drawback is to not being able to use the micro-wave. For lightning we had a dozen of candles.

At the beginning of the black out, I used a USB plug on a notebook to fill up the cell phone's battery. But what was missing is a link to the civilization : a radio receiver. As we have no radio receiver working with batteries or renewable energy I got my old car battery (50 Ah) and the car converter (12 to 220 V, max 150 W) to plug a radio-alarm. I didn't know the charge level, but during 2 months I used a little 2W solar panel to recharge it and plug my GPS navigator on it in the car (just a dumb geek project to have a nuclear waste free GPS navigator ). We also plugged the wireless phones, half an hour before the line cut, and another cell phone to recharge its battery. I also plugged a 1.4W LED lamp, but it died after half an hour of use in the evening... so we kept a 100% candle & fire lightning.

During the afternoon, we met with several neighbors to help each others . One borrowed wood and another some water. One couldn't cook and went into another neighbor's kitchen to do so. One without heating, went to a house of his family that was not hit by the black out.

Sunday morning, I decided to recharge the car battery with our biggest car (scenic) and then I was going to apply this : Another Prius owner makes the news! - CleanMPG Forums with the freezer and the refrigerator. While I was preparing what was necessary, the electricity came back, so I didn't tested it...

The water came back Sunday night, the ADSL Monday morning and the phone Monday after-noon.

I tried the LED bulb and it doesn't work anymore in any socket. I plugged an energy monitor between the converter and the multiplug connector. It displayed a maximum voltage of 230 V which is in French norms. I think the culprit is simply the DC/AC converter as it was the lowest cost one I could find to plug a laptop in the car, so it doesn't generate a sine signal.

Tuesday morning the electricity has been cut during 2 hours, certainly to finish the repairs. From Sunday to Tuesday, the night hours were accounted as peak hours. Since Tuesday, the night hours are correctly accounted as off peak hours.

4 days after the tempest, always 140,000 houses doesn't have any electricity yet, so I'm happy to live near a big city. These houses are mainly living in difficult regions, such as the biggest French Forest (Foret des Landes) which has been destroyed at 60% 10 years ago, such a tempest happened, but in a smaller region and last less. Thousand houses had no electricity during 3 weeks... so the electricity providers are now much more organized : first they secured the fallen lines during the first hours after the tempest. Sunday morning thousands French electricians came to begin the repairs. Monday hundreds European electricians came to help and should stay until the end of the week

Since we bought water and wood to rebuild the reserves, and trashed a couple things that didn't survived the refrigerator heat.

A project is to prepare ourselves for the next black out. Here are a few rules I'm thinking about :
  • avoid gasoline generator : certainly too expensive to be used only once a decade. Another reason is a couple dozen people got intoxicated during these last days and 4 of them died because of low cost gasoline generators, ie as much as the direct victims of the tempest
  • privilege renewable energies : I have an excuse to buy a bigger solar panel, a charge controller and may be a bigger dedicated battery This could be a movable system used in the external garage where we don't have lightning currently.
  • think about plugging the freezer and the refrigerator at the beginning of the black out or at least sooner : the freezer kept correctly the cold (no sticker changed its color) but not the refrigerator...
  • think about what to prepare when the red alert is broadcasted : per example, we could then recharge the cell phone before the black out.
If you have such a plan and experience then don't hesitate to share it with us.

Denis.

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Radioactive wastes saved by 3kWc photo-voltaic solar panels :
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Based upon "official" French figures...
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Old 01-28-09, 05:24 PM   #2
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Wow thats amazing. I'm glad you and your family wasn't hurt.
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Old 01-28-09, 07:07 PM   #3
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Pretty crazy storm. How often are there these sorts of blackouts in france? I would've assumed france was impervious to such events,
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Old 01-29-09, 07:20 AM   #4
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I saw news accounts of the storm, which were mostly about Spain - I didn't realize how widespread it was.

Glad to hear you managed OK.

Eastern Ontario / western Quebec / northern New York was hit by an ice storm 11 winters ago which left millions without power for up to a week. Afterward, many people spent money on preparations for future power losses. (Lots of generators sold.)

My parents replaced a wood burning fireplace (they had little wood when the power went out) with a natural gas one - the gas keeps flowing regardless of power in the local area.
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Old 01-29-09, 05:24 PM   #5
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The black out was due to power lines cuts. Only a few voltage converters (100,000 -> ... -> 220 V) were hit.

There is 2 companies managing the power lines in France :
  • RTE for high voltage lines (400,000 V)
  • ERDF for mid (???? V) and low (220 V) voltage lines

The last tempest was in 1999 and was declared the 20th century tempest. Thousand houses didn't got electricity during 3 weeks because a lot of high, mid and low voltage lines were cut. After this event they decided 2 main points :
  • put new lines underground, and some older when possible.
  • organize the people to secure and restore the broken lines as fast as possible.

When the red alert was broadcasted, one thousand electricians were mobilized and intervened to secure the cut lines as soon as the tempest passed the region. For zones with difficult access, planes flight over to detect problems and helicopters dropped down electricians. They did so where high voltage grid was the weakest and regions with no viable mid voltage lines.

RTE can't bury high voltage lines, so they extended the pruning trees range around their lines. ERDF buried 95% of its new lines during the last years, but only 35% of its lines are currently buried (50% in UK and 80% in Germany). 1.3 million kilometers (0.8 million miles) are currently aerial.

The tempest cut several high voltage lines. The grid permitted to feed every regions excepted one. For this one another region shared their electricity and they got electricity alternatively until Spain agreed to feed a France-Spain high voltage line.

Hundred of mid/low lines were also cut. Of course they began by the mid lines to permit as much people as possible to get electricity back. Currently, 5 days after the tempest, less than 90,000 houses (out of 1,700,000) doesn't have electricity yet. Sunday less than a thousand shouldn't be connected back. In 1999, 3 weeks were necessary to achieve the same percentage.

The saddest, excepted victims, is the destroyed forest. While the 1999 tempest destroyed 100,000 ha, the 2009 tempest destroyed 300,000 ha. The wood lost 85% of its value, which was always under its pre-1999 value, and can only be used for paper and heat.

Saturday lots of people rushed to buy gasoline generators right after the tempest, as the radios were constantly talking about the 3 weeks of blackout for a couple thousand houses in 1999. This tempest proved they improved and will continue to do so.

I prefer thinking about some renewable project that can be useful all year long and big enough to feed what I'll need, as the freezer and the refrigerator. As my current freezer and refrigerator are consuming 250 and 150 kWh/year respectively, this is 1.1 kWh/day ie a capacity of 91 Ah for a 12 V battery. The question is how much days I want to "survive" and how much I'm ready to invest... my old car battery is only a 50 Ah.

Denis.
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Earth absorbs 1.8 t CO2/head/yr, while a French generates 6.2 t CO2/yr
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  • kg saved 06/08-08/09: 1816.9+382.9 (ecodriving / 1420mi not driven) = 2199.8
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    (2.66 kg/l diesel)
  • kg saved by 3kWc photo-voltaic solar panels : 187 kg/yr
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    (59.1 g/kWh)
Radioactive wastes saved by 3kWc photo-voltaic solar panels :
  • Long life (>100,000 years) : 2.85 g/yr (0.9 mg/kWh)
  • Short life (<300 years) : 31.7 g/yr (10.0 mg/kWh)
Based upon "official" French figures...
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Old 01-29-09, 05:54 PM   #6
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What is the temperature around your area lately? I'd be more worried about heat than anything else.
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Old 01-30-09, 07:25 AM   #7
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Wow! Those were some high winds .
Did your solar panels hold up okay?
Quote:
The saddest, excepted victims, is the destroyed forest. While the 1999 tempest destroyed 100,000 ha, the 2009 tempest destroyed 300,000 ha. The wood lost 85% of its value, which was always under its pre-1999 value, and can only be used for paper and heat.
The forest loss is tragic . Are those figures in hectares?
Quote:
think about plugging the freezer and the refrigerator at the beginning of the black out or at least sooner : the freezer kept correctly the cold (no sticker changed its color) but not the refrigerator...
What stickers are you talking about? Some kind of thaw indicator?
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Old 02-01-09, 03:25 PM   #8
groar
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Daox: the coldest temperature has been -7C (19F) this winter. It's near freezing generally. During the blackout night it has been near freezing. The internal temperature with the chimney was 23C (73F) when we went to bed and 17C (62F) 10 hours later when we woke up. The chimney is pretty efficient to heat the living room (the previous house owner were using it mainly) and the insulation is rather good as the house lost 0.6C/hour (1.1F/hour) with a 15C (27C) difference between internal and external temperature In facts the loss must be a little more as the chimney didn't had flames in it when we went to bed, but it was always generating heat.
We made a little stock of wood for 3 days. In case of far colder temperature we may live only in the living room and so heat only the living room + kitchen (in fact same room of 50m 450 sqft, half the house surface). During the blackout the bedroom doors were opened to heat the bedrooms.

James: the solar panels are OK, they are tightly integrated to the roof, even more than the tiles they are replacing. Every year we have 80 km/h (50 mph) winds several times per year, the 20 angle of roofs are helping to lower the impact of the wind.
The region with impacted forest doesn't have such winds, the trees are high (pines) and the soil is mainly sand. The surfaces are effectively in hectares.
On some food sold frozen, there are stickers that are changing their color when exposed to a "too hot" temperature (-3C / 26F iirc).

Denis.
__________________
Earth absorbs 1.8 t CO2/head/yr, while a French generates 6.2 t CO2/yr
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
  • kg saved 06/08-08/09: 1816.9+382.9 (ecodriving / 1420mi not driven) = 2199.8
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    (2.66 kg/l diesel)
  • kg saved by 3kWc photo-voltaic solar panels : 187 kg/yr
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    (59.1 g/kWh)
Radioactive wastes saved by 3kWc photo-voltaic solar panels :
  • Long life (>100,000 years) : 2.85 g/yr (0.9 mg/kWh)
  • Short life (<300 years) : 31.7 g/yr (10.0 mg/kWh)
Based upon "official" French figures...
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Old 02-02-09, 06:51 AM   #9
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Those stickers are a good idea. We've lost power many times before, and it's always hard to know what food is still safe and what to throw out.

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