Why did three Hurricanes cause such extensive damage to separate electric grids that it may take months to restore full power? With the exception of a few thousand field technicians and a handful of field engineers no one else in the general population, the Government, Universities, and most working for the Utilities don’t really understand how the power system works; what function each component performs, equipment fail modes, how to repair damage, how to restore power. Because They don’t understand they don’t know how easy it is to destroy key components of the power system. The most vulnerable part is the high voltage transmission grid.
The Electric Power system is the largest, most expensive, and complex infrastructure in the country. A very simple model of the power system is that it has three basic components; power generation. power transmission, and power distribution. All three components operate together and must be in balance for the system to operate. Electricity travels through the transmission and distribution systems at nearly the speed of light. Power generated at power stations is consumed instantaneously at the load. The voltage and frequency of the entire system must be kept within very tight tolerances or the system will become unstable and collapse. It does not take many key equipment failures to cause the system to become unstable. As few a three key high voltage transmission grid equipment failures is suffient.
Power transmission, the high voltage transmission grid, connects the generating stations to the load, the users of electric energy. Without the transmission grid power plants can not operate because the energy they generate must be consumed instantaneously. That can not happen because without the high voltage grid the energy is not getting to the low voltage power distribution network and the load.