The Northeast Blackout of 2003: When Grid Power Went Out, Diesel Power Came On

Did you ever notice those large, yellow engines that you find at facilities like hospitals and shopping malls?  When a facility absolutely has to have electricity even when the local power grid goes down, they have back-up generators.  A major manufacturer of these is Caterpillar, a company best know for earth moving equipment, but the premier supplier of back-up power generators.
From a recent press release:

Diesel Power Plays Growing Role in Preparedness, Responsiveness and Resilience

In Blackouts & Disasters

Washington, D.C. – One of the memorable images of the massive Northeast Blackout of 2003 was the continued illumination of the Statue of Liberty amid the overwhelming darkness throughout New York City and several other states.
This was possible because when the grid power went off, the diesel power came on.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 is the 10 year anniversary of the massive blackout.
“The Northeast Blackout of 2003 and last year’s Superstorm Sandy were unfortunate reminders of the vulnerability of our electrical grid but they also highlighted the vital role diesel power plays in assuring public health and safety from natural and man-made disasters,” said Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum.
In both instances, hospitals, data centers, water and sewage facilities, fueling stations, and critical communication and transportation systems required continuous power to protect public health and safety. Emergency backup electrical generators powered by diesel engines provided a unique combination of reliable, immediate and full strength electric power during these failures in the primary power supply systems.
“When grid power goes off, diesel-powered generators come on and uniquely provide a rapid response time – within just 10 seconds.  They were able to handle heavy electrical loads with a steady supply of high-quality power and superior performance for transient or fluctuating power demands due to the high-torque characteristics of diesel engines,” Schaeffer said.

Many people think fo the government and FEMA when they think about the reaction to natural disasters.  But often it’s local preparedness and things like back-up generators that really save lives when seconds count.


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