Many remember August 14, 2003 as the day a massive blackout spread across New England, the upper Midwest, and parts of Canada starting just after 4:10 pm EDT. In 2003, Genscape was a young company working to make a name for itself in the power market as the leading provider of real-time electricity power flow data. The blackout solidified Genscape in the power market as its proprietary power monitors detected the blackout event and helped the government identify the cause and timeline of events that occurred.
“We were a young company growing quickly and still fairly small. The blackout was such an anomaly to our system that I was initially concerned that we had a breakdown somewhere,” said Sean O’Leary, a founder of Genscape. “While the blackout was a hassle for many, and a major problem for some, it turned out to be a massive test of our technology and processes. We passed with flying colors and the FERC signed a two year contract a few weeks later.”
The outage affected about 50 million people and over 61,000 MW of electric load across New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada. It took upwards of four days for power to be totally restored in the United States, while Ontario dealt with rolling blackouts for more than a week.
A video of Genscape’s real-time power dashboard offers a representation of the outage events as they happened on August 14, 2003: http://info.genscape.com/2003-power-outage. The dots on the map indicate large and important power generation stations. When those individual power stations start to blink it means that station is coming offline rapidly and thousands of homes are at risk of losing power. A massive amount of generation came offline all at once, essentially tripping a major part of the national power grid.
Unanticipated outages of several transmission lines and generating plants (including the loss of Eastlake Unit 5 at 1:31 pm EDT) were notable events that occurred prior to the loss of the Harding-Chamberlin 345 kV line. Although the loss of these lines and the Eastlake unit did not cause the blackout, they were significant in that they caused serious voltage and loading problems within the PJM and MISO regions. The loss of the lines and generating units made voltage management more challenging and gave operators less flexibility in operating their systems during the blackout.
The main event that led up to the blackout was the loss of the Harding-Chamberlin 345 kV power line in Ohio at about 3:05 pm EDT, which was caused by a tree falling into the power line. The loss of three more major 345 kV lines: Hanna-Juniper at 3:32 pm EDT (tree contact), Star-South Canton at 3:41 pm EDT (tree contact), and Canton Central-Tidd at 3:45 pm EDT, overloaded the 138 kV line system towards Cleveland, and area voltage levels on the 138 kV and 69 kV systems began to degrade. The loss of these 345 kV lines and the 138 kV lines on the grid were major contributors leading up to the loss of the Sammis-Star 345 kV line at approximately 4:06 pm EDT. After the loss of the Sammis line the major phase of the blackout began at a little after 4:10pm EDT with numerous other transmission lines tripping across the eastern grid and 21 generating units tripping offline, all within three minutes.
Genscape’s proprietary power monitors picked up the loss of the Eastlake Unit 5 earlier in the afternoon and at about 4:09 pm EDT detected the blackout cascade with the loss of Homer City.
The 2003 blackout was one of the defining events in Genscape’s history and one that many in the United States will remember for years to come. Today, 3
Genscape offers a plethora of commodity and financial market services across a range of energy sectors based on its real-time proprietary monitoring of energy fundamentals. To learn more or to request a complimentary trial of Genscape’s services, visit http://info.genscape.com/blackout-anniversary.
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