Another power failure?!

We’ve been selling non-electric items to the Amish since 1955. But, we didn’t advertise it much until 1973, when the first energy crisis hit. Ever since, we’ve been billing ourselves as your source for non-electric items.

For years, lots of people made fun of us. They would tease us by asking if we were too far out in the country to realize that most everyone has electricity now. We’re not hearing that much any more. There are lots of reasons to be afraid of power failures today.

For one thing, we are more dependent on electricity than ever before. We’re in the digital age now. And, the flow of digital information is entirely dependent on electricity. If the electricity stops, the information stops. And, if the information stops, our lives grind to a halt.

For another, power failures are more likely now than ever before. Here is what I think is causing the problem today:

1) Deregulation – Generally speaking, I believe in the free market. But, deregulation has led to less reliability. My personal experience has been a steady increase in power outages, most of which are caused by maintenance failures. In some cases, equipment goes bad because it wasn’t replaced on time. In others, power lines are fouled because nearby tree branches weren’t cleared.

Naturally, no one at your local power company will admit they are postponing maintenance. I learned about it by talking to service technicians “off-the-record”. I also learned that to cover for their shortcomings, independent power companies sign mutual interdependence agreements. When one power company can’t keep up, a nearby company may agree to supply power for them. That interdependence can add strength to your local electric grid. But, it also means that your home may loose electricity because of a power supply problem hundreds of miles away.

2) The “Not In My Back Yard” syndrome (NIMBY) – No one want a power plant nearby. Whenever I see those tall stacks belching fumes, I’m glad if I’m upwind. And, those nuclear plant cooling towers always remind me of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters. How bad is the problem? The Department of Energy reports that over 11,000 megawatts of power generating capacity was planned for 2005. But, only 329 was actually built.

Over time, I expect power failures to become more common. Terrorist attack is always a threat. It may come in the form of a computer virus. Or, it may be a threat from low energy magnetic pulses. Such pulses, which could be caused by something as simple as a sun spot or as worrisome as a terrorist bomb, could cause a surprising amount of damage to our electric grid. Want to read the full government report on this problem? Click here: http://www.nerc.com/files/HILF.pdf

What can you do? I’ve always believed in preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. Of course, we’re here to help. Whether that means supplying your oil lamp needs or giving advice on food preservation, we’ll do what ever we can to help you get ready.

Galen Lehman
Galen Lehman, President, Lehman’s

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About Galen Lehman

Lehman's CEO and son of founder Jay Lehman. Homesteads on five acres. Believes in a Simpler Life...rewarding relationships, fresh, local (preferably homegown) food and the gratification of hard work. Plant a tree!

5 thoughts on “Another power failure?!

  1. I agree with the deregulation points. I wonder how much we are really saving because of dereg? I sure doesn’t feel very good to have to worry about power loss. We are more dependent on electricity now than 20 years ago when the supply was more dependable.

    I also agree on the point of no one wanting a power plant close to where they live. The same goes for oil wells and even wind generation. I also believe nuclear has gotten a bad rap. There have been fewer deaths associated from the generation of nuclear power than any other major power source. And since Three Mile Island (the amount of radiation leaked was equivalent to standing beside a microwave oven) the nuclear power pants being built are way more safe than that plant. There has been a couple of major upgrades in technology, including safety. The technology is and has been there to recycle spent nuclear fuel rods which would cut the wast by about 96%. There must be a good balance to be found if there is the political will to do so.

    It takes 2.2 million tons of coal to supply a 1,000 megawatt coal power plant for a year. The same size nuclear plant requires only 30 tons of enriched uranium over the same one year period for a typical Light Water Reactor. about 1.3% Then recycle 96% of that.

  2. >What can you do?

    This particular topic is one of my favorite soap boxes.

    Taking aim at deregulation, terrorism, and/or the state of grid is addressing too large a target. Leave that for that celebrities in California. Keep it small and personal.

    Nowadays, the kids seem to be getting a healthy dose of conservation in their classes. The girl child reminds me regularly that converting coal to electricity creates global warming and “kills polar bears”. I don’t know if the declining polar bear population is entirely my fault or not. She seems to think it is. I have noted that, despite her zeal, her education seems to be a little lean on the hands-on practical solutions and weighted heavily towards finger pointing.

    So here’s a fun exercise to do with the kids. The associated research can keep ’em busy for a weekend or two. And if the boy child balks, remind him that playing “Black Ops” all weekend kills polar bears and additional comments should be directed to his sister.

    Pencil at the ready?

    Count up all electric light bulbs in the house and associated wattages. Now, using resources off the net, what would it cost to purchase equipment for and build a grid coupled battery bank to run all of that for 24 hours. All the information is out there. Rather cost prohibitive! How about just the kitchen, bedroom(s), and a bathroom? And if you replaced the incandescents with LEDs? That room sized battery bank just got a lot smaller. Could it be charged (at least partially) with something like an alternator-based wind generator or two? How about an RV photo panel or two? Using available resources, can this system be built?

    Oh! And the electric water heater sucks up a lot of juice, but we like hot water. Would pre-heating the water help? Kids, how do we do that?

    Pushing the numbers around, and approaching things in a small and cumulative way, a handful of lights at a time, you’ll find that you can have your cake and eat it too . . . or at least gain a little peace of mind for down-the-road.

  3. “Naturally, no one at your local power company will admit they are postponing maintenance.”

    The company that provides gas and electricity in our area got called on the carpet by our state legislature a few years ago after an ice storm left large portions of the state without electricity for several days. Ours was only out for 4 days. Being campers and having gotten a generator a few months before after a tornado knocked out power here, we were equipped for the outage. Others in the area weren’t.

    During questioning by members of our state’s congress it came out that they were way behind trimming trees around power lines. Since then we’ve seen armies of tree trimmers every year, and their reliability improved immediately.

    It’s still unregulated here, but they also know that they’re being scrutinized carefully. After all, they did get their CEO’s electricity up within a few hours while many users were out for a week.