A lot of people are willing to gamble when it comes to backup power. They feel that power outages are rare occurrences that don’t really pose a significant threat. But ask anyone who operates a data or manufacturing facility that has lost power for say, more than five minutes, if power outages do not pose a threat, and you are likely to get a response that uses stronger words than “significant.” The truth is that power outages cost thousands of dollars for every minute that a medium or large facility goes without power, and that they are more common than most people tend to think.
Why Does the Power go out?
Let’s begin by reviewing the most common reasons for power outages. According to information from some actual power providers the top causes of power outages include:
- Weather- Wind, rain, sleet, snow, lightning, you name it–common aspects of weather can cause electrical lines to be disrupted and transformers to go out. In addition to these occurrences you have to consider tornadoes, hurricanes (especially for those of us living here in Florida) and any other weather-related disaster that can cause a blackout.
- Animals- Yes Mother Nature strikes again. Think about how many times you have seen birds and squirrels living on power lines or using them as travel routes. More often that you would think, a bird building a nest on a utility pole or a squirrel chewing into a wire causes hundreds of properties to lose power.
- Automobile and Construction Accidents- Drunk, sleepy and distracted drivers have been known to crash into light poles. New development is also a fairly common reason that power is interrupted as workers unintentionally disrupt power lines and equipment.
These are the most common reasons for disruptions in power. While other factors can play a role, more often than not the culprit is on the above list.
What about Blackouts in the Future?
As our population grows in numbers and the use of electrically powered technology becomes an increasing part of everyone’s lives, it would be unrealistic to think that increased power outages are not going to be a probable side affect. More people, who all have increased demand for energy, will likely cause problems for utility providers. Currently the energy industry is looking into new ways to create electricity that is both better for the environment and able to meet upcoming demands. The truth is, those sources of electricity are largely in experimental stages and are not widely adopted. If you disagree, look at the bottom of your next power bill. It lists how your utility provider sourced electricity during the previous billing period. You will see that the majority of our power still comes from fossil fuels and coal, not new technologies.
Recently CNN reported on the findings of a team of researchers out of the University of Minnesota. These researchers studied power disruptions and blackouts. They found that over the past 20 years power outages that are not caused by natural disasters but do end up affecting at least 50,000 people are up 124%. This evidence shows that our demand for energy is currently increasing faster than the utility companies’ ability to provide power.
What Can We Do about It?
This is not the easiest question to answer. Some would argue more funding for research and development of new technologies, while others would back finding ways for each individual to use less power. In the end it will probably be a combination of both ideas. Regardless of what happens, everyone who values energy, or who values their business that needs energy to operate, can purchase insurance. The insurance we are talking about isn’t an intangible contract sold to you by someone who will likely try to argue you out of payment when you need it. This type of insurance is a tangible piece of proven machinery that when set up correctly can power parts of your business, if not the entire facility. The other benefit is that this “insurance policy” does not necessarily cost you more based on location. An identical standby system costs the same for a data center in Jacksonville as it does for a manufacturing plant in Orlando.
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