DOD panel calls out power grid disruption threat
Here’s another good reason to fix a shaky and outdated power grid, from the Defense Science Board: keeping the Air Force flying during the next terrorist attack.
The military focuses much of its efforts on avoiding global petroleum disruptions. But it has not thought much about power grid disruptions that could affect its own bases, the Department of Defense (DOD) group says in a report authored by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger
The board says “physical or cyber sabotage — or even a simple capacity overload — could devastate U.S. military and homeland security installations and have a frightening ripple effect across the country, leaving everything from sewage systems to border security controls paralyzed for weeks, perhaps months,” ClimateWire reports ($ub. req’d, but free trial available).
Investigators noted: “A long-term major power outage would have significant consequences for both DOD and the nation … Unfortunately, the current architecture of the grid is vulnerable to even simple attacks.”
Military bases receive 99 percent of their power from outside the base, says the board. “Almost complete dependence of military installations on a fragile and vulnerable commercial power grid and other critical national infrastructure places critical military and homeland defense missions at an unacceptably high risk of extended disruption.” In other words, keeping those F-16s flying over D.C. and New York during the next terrorist attack could be difficult if power is out at the base and fuel pumps are down.
The article quotes Reid Detchon, executive director of energy and climate at the U.N. Foundation: “‘There’s an unacceptably high risk of outage from failure of the grid, and the grid is extremely vulnerable to a terrorist attack … The particularly alarming thing is that big electrical transformers are not assembly-line items,’ he added, noting that a massive outage or coordinated attack could shut down the economy for weeks.”
The answer, says Detchon, Chuck Yeager, Kurt Yeager and other grid experts quoted in the piece, is to make smart-grid deployment a major national priority. A smart grid able to mesh a wide array of distributed energy resources the way the Internet meshes many computers could hold up much better under attack — and keep juice flowing to the airbase fuel station.