Heat waves threaten power grid stability with potential blackouts

3 weeks ago 19

Prolonged heat waves could increasingly cause blackouts by overheating power transformers, particularly in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, new research indicates.

Harry Stevens reports for The Washington Post.

In short:

  • Transformers, essential for regulating electricity to safe levels, are vulnerable to prolonged high temperatures.
  • Cities like Phoenix may face over 120 days annually with temperatures that can degrade transformer performance, leading to potential blackouts.
  • Power outages during heat waves pose serious health risks, especially to vulnerable populations.

Key quote:

“When it’s hotter outside, our power plants are less efficient, and the transmission lines are less efficient, and the air conditioners are less efficient.”

— Michael Webber, professor of mechanical engineering, University of Texas at Austin

Why this matters:

As climate change leads to more frequent and intense heat waves, the strain on the electrical grid will increase, raising the risk of blackouts. This could result in severe public health crises during extreme heat events.

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