The Coming Power Grid Collapse: What to Expect Next

July 17, 2021
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Our nation’s power infrastructure is rapidly aging, and many of the components and systems are operating well past their expected life cycle. Recent power infrastructure problems like seen in Texas and the rolling blackout issues seen annually in California and on the West Coast are increasingly becoming the norm. At one time, being able to be independent of the power grid was an excellent option, but having a way to power your home when the grid goes down is increasingly becoming a necessity.

When it comes to the problems of power production in this country, you’ll hear a lot of different competing views as to what is the root cause of the problem. Anyone pushing a single answer as the panacea to the problem is trying to sell you something. On this channel, I try to convey being prepared. People who seek to blame this government party or a way of thinking are really not offering nor achieving a solution of any kind for themselves. Alarmists and blamers are more content to chew the food than swallow it. I tend to look at this issue from a pragmatic perspective. The nation’s power grid is under an ever increasing load as more people consume at greater levels, it’s aging, there’s some real complications that have cropped up in the last few years we’ll cover momentarily, and it simply has not and will not keep up with the demand in the coming years unless something significant changes, and I’m not holding my breath for this to happen. For me, the time to act is now and I’m personally implementing approaches in my personal house to deal with the inevitable which I’ll cover in this video.

When the power goes out in your region for an extended period for any reason: wildfires, mismanagement, sagging lines, high winds, or whatever, will you be prepared? So, while the arguments rage on and on, I prefer to examine the problem and work towards a solution for myself and my family. I think that’s really what the prepper’s mindset should be. In this video, I’ll examine the current power production systems so you can understand what to expect, teach you how to evaluate your power needs, and then plug in a solution to survive a prolonged outage even through extreme weather. It’s not a matter of if the power grid will go down; it’s whether you are prepared when it does. So let’s jump in…

AGING SYSTEMS & INEVITABLE FAILURES
Lake Mead’s levels have dropped, and that impairs Hoover Dam’s ability to produce hydroelectric power. One of the largest hydropower plants in the United States is producing 33% less energy due to the drought strangling the Western U.S. At the same time, record high temperatures are creating greater consumer demand for cooling needs.

High winds and brutally dry conditions will very likely spark a fire season we likely have never seen before. Rolling blackouts are inevitable as an aging electrical grid is forced to transform itself to keep pace with demand and an environment it wasn’t built to withstand. It’s not changing fast enough. Nobody has dialed it in yet if there is a solution of a mix of renewable energy and traditional fossil fuel-based energy production. People will debate that forever, but the important thing is that you are prepping due to the obvious early warning signs of these systems failing.

Under ideal conditions, transformers and circuit breakers are expected to operate for 30 to 40 years. 70% of power transformers are 25 years of age or older, 60% of circuit breakers are 30 years or older. Under ideal conditions and with proper maintenance, a transmission line can last up to 100 years. 70% of transmission lines are 25 years or older, but transmission lines weren’t built and erected to withstand prolonged periods of high heat, freezing cold, wildfires, or sustained high winds. Our systems and infrastructures were designed and built in previous decades to work in periods without extreme weather. The current prolonged high and low temperatures, higher winds, droughts, and consumer demand are stretching those systems well beyond the blueprint of their maximum capacity design.

The grid is spread so thin and tight, running at maximum capacity, and a failure anywhere could borrow from power generated elsewhere, creating a disequilibrium. Outages and rolling blackouts will become more frequent and will have a broader scope. The nation’s electric power grid is getting older and older. Its lines are sagging, and the turbines are getting worn. The system failing in larger and more significant ways is inevitable.

HYDROELECTRIC
Hydropower accounts for 52 percent of the nation’s renewable electricity generation and 7 percent of total electricity generation. Hydroelectric 7.3%, geothermal .4%, solar 4.6%, and wind energy 8.4% have kept the grid supplemented, combining for 21% of the annual U.S. energy production. This has allowed us to meet rising demands, but these forms of energy production aren’t without their problems. Hydroelectric is most likely to take a hit this year. Lake Mead which powers the Hoover Dam has declined to its lowest level since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s following the construction of the Hoover Dam. The reservoir near Las Vegas, Nevada, holds water for cities, farms, and tribal lands in Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico. Years of unrelenting drought and high temperatures are shrinking the flow into the lake, contributing to the significant mismatch between the demands for water and diminishing supply. If it drops another 170 feet, Lake Mead will be a dead pool, and no more water will flow through it from Lake Mead. That may seem like a long way still to go, but levels have already dropped 145 feet since the year 2000, and long before it gets classified as a “Dead Pool,” Hoover Dam would have to go offline. If it goes offline, so too does 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power servicing 1.3 million people. If the predicted El Nina pattern drenches the Northwest and leaves the Southwest dry, as it is being forecasted to do later this year, Lake Mead’s water levels will continue to decline.

It’s not just a problem there. The Oroville Lake serving the dam of the same name is predicted to drop below operational levels next month. When it goes offline, so does the 819 megawatts of electricity, immediately impacting 800,000 homes. Folsom Lake is the driest it’s been in springtime since the epic drought of 1977. Water levels are so low that temporary pumps probably will be installed to help move water out of the stricken reservoir. Folsom Dam feeds into the system almost 200 megawatts. Oroville, Folsom, Shasta, the Yuba River, the Stanislaus River, the San Joaquin River, waterways, and reserves throughout the state are approaching historic lows. Typically, the grid relies on hydropower for about 14% of its overall supply. But this year, the state is facing significantly lower-than-normal hydro conditions. Even if the dams don’t go offline, lower levels equal lower pressure which equals lower power production. So, what does all this mean?

As it gets hotter, longer, and more parched, demand for energy increases at the same time production decreases by up to 14% in the state of California alone. Add to this the droughts decreasing or ceasing hydroelectric production in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and the other Western States, and the shortfall can’t be made up by simply borrowing electricity from another state. The drought conditions are much bigger than just the Golden State this time around. If you are out east, sitting in your home, and it is currently raining, it would be easy to dismiss the problems of the western states. You should consider that the largess of the United States’ Gross Domestic Product and agriculture comes significantly from these states. As crops fail from lack of water, the food on your store shelves will dwindle as well.

SOLAR
There’s no shortage of sunlight in the west, but solar only makes up just under 5% of infrastructure production. Still, it’s an efficient method of energy production for the individual homeowner and has kept grid demands stable over the last decade or more. The average home in the U.S. uses 10,400 kWh of electricity per year. To be completely self-sufficient, a homeowner would need 28 to 34 250-watt solar panels to meet with their current power usage. Most homeowners don’t have that kind of roof space. This production versus consumption problem aside, most solar panel setups won’t work when the grid goes down because they aren’t configured with a battery backup tied to a power management system. A traditional solar power system shuts down when the power goes down to prevent any power from back-feeding to the grid, which could be dangerous for utility linemen working on repairing grid failures. If you already have solar, you should be looking into home battery solutions. If you don’t have solar, you should only consider systems with some form of home battery solution. I will be releasing a video soon on a system that I am implementing that will replenish itself when the grid is down and will keep me running seamlessly when the power goes out. While the initial upfront cost may be a deterrent, many states and federal programs offer rebates and tax credits along with financing. With the rising cost of power in my area, my solar setup pays for itself in about 5 years.

Solar can be part of your solution, even when your budget is tight. A sunoven solar cooker or thermal cooker will allow you to cook and purify water when the power goes down. A typical 1000 to 1500 kWh solar generator can be had for a little over 1000 dollars, and it will greatly increase your capabilities and sustainability. So, while others debate solar as a renewable energy in the broad picture of things, you should leverage your piece of the sun to improve your prepping and ultimate survival.

CALCULATE YOUR SOLUTION
When the grid goes down with little hope that it will come back up in the immediate future, you are either at the mercy of the fates, or you’ve thoughtfully calculated and plugged in a solution for yourself. No amount of debate and no strongly held opinion will save you. A good starting point is to use an online consumption calculator like one I will link to in the comments below, or simply write out an inventory of every electricity using light, appliance, or anything plugged into the house’s electrical system. Is the stove electric? Is the water heater electric, or does it rely on an electric starter? Do an inventory of every room. After you’ve done your walk-through and a first pass at documenting your whole consumption, go to your breaker box and shut everything off.

Now, go back into your house and sit down and assess what is going to go wrong. Obviously, your food in the freezer and refrigerator will start warming and eventually go bad. Do you have the means to cook? When there’s no electricity to run gas pumps, there will be no food deliveries or gas for your generator. When the natural gas stops flowing because of pumping stations, will you be able to cool or heat your home? Depending upon the season, how warm or cold is your house going to get with no power? Do you have medicines that need to be refrigerated? When the municipal water stops flowing because the pumps aren’t working, how will you maintain a supply of water? No water also means no flushing of toilets. How much water would you need if the electricity is out for a week or two or three? Realize that though you are engaged in an exercise to determine your consumption needs, not one of your neighbors is likewise engaged. How desperate and underprepared will they be? Factor that in if your emergency plan is to run a noisy generator.

Once you understand how you are consuming electricity and how the lack of electricity will unravel, contemplate what your energy needs are to get by. Consider everything on your list is powerless. What’s the most important thing? Light? Cooking? Heating or cooling? Communications and information? What’s your plan for each? Turn to the same list and determine what you absolutely must have, and begin to sketch out a plan to accommodate losing those things. I have a friend who lives in a suburban tract in Southern California. He has a large stack of firewood and kindling. It isn’t because it gets particularly cold here. It’s because when the power goes down, he has prepared himself to be able to use his fireplace, firepit, and thermal cooker to cook or to boil water. Even his wood mulch is a resource.

When devising your solution, factor in the environment, food, water, and security. You need to be able to keep cool or hot, at least one room of your home, and you need to seal that room off from other rooms of your home. If you live in a non-humid environment, a small evaporative cooler may draw little electricity but may be able to lower your temperature by a few critical degrees. Likewise, if it’s winter when the power goes out, and here I am talking to all those Texas folks, what’s your heating plan? What’s your plan to stay warm? Maintaining a survivable environment without gas or electricity is a significant part of surviving an extended outage. Modern houses aren’t built to maintain comfortable temperatures when the sun is blazing without HVAC.

Another consideration is your food plan. What will you be able to prepare? If you plan to pull out the camping stove, great, but how long will those canisters of propane last? If your goal is to BBQ all that meat in your freezer before it goes bad, great, but do you have the propane or charcoal you need right now if that were the case, and how will you deal with the hungry neighbors your delicious BBQ will attract? What’s your plan when the refrigerator and stove are useless to you? Do you have a solar cooker or thermal cooker in your prepping supplies, but you’ve never used them? What makes you think you’ll be able to use them well once the grid goes down?

Ensure you have food supplies enough to last you at least a week, if not three or more. Make sure you can process and prepare that food without externally provided power. With food comes human waste. Can you safely remove human waste from your living environment? What’s your plan for the trash, too, when that service stops?

Water is a topic I harp on a great deal on this channel, and that’s because it’s the most important prep you should have. You can’t live 72 hours without water. It’s also the easiest for someone new to prepping to get control of their supplies. Whether that’s a 55-gallon barrel and pump stashed in your garage or a stack of Waterbricks or a LifeStraw and a stream or pond, you have to make sure you have water security. Even using water to cool a rag and place it on your pulse points or forehead can keep you from overheating when the AC and the fans aren’t working. I also advise people to fill their bathtubs, sinks, and every container they can find at the first sign of an emergency or disaster. This will keep you from having to draw off your supplies and will get water to you before pumping stations run out of their backup power. The back tank of your toilet has fresh water in it, and you can draw 40 or so gallons of water out of your water heater if you’ve looked at how to do that before the internet went down. A simple hand pump can extract water from where it sits in your irrigation lines if the water ceases to flow to your house. Also, freeze some water bottles in your freezer. It may take a marginal amount of extra electricity and make your freezer work just a bit harder, but when the power goes out, your food will last longer, and you will have cold water to drink. Finally, have the means to purify or boil dirty water. The longer you can stretch your supply of stored water, the better off you will be.

Don’t forget the security of what you have. Though you are taking the time to address your food, water, waste, and environmental needs, I guarantee that your friends and neighbors are not doing the same. Keep shades and curtains drawn closed. Avoid running gas generators, cooking fragrant foods, or anything that would indicate you have food, water, or electricity. Have a plan for when others show up at your door that is a little more elaborate than reaching for a firearm.

A short-term solution is a gas generator, but they have OPSEC issues and will eventually run out of fuel. Even a small one can keep critical items running like your refrigerator. An even better option here is a solar generator and battery. Whole-home batteries with solar or generators attached are reasonable medium-range solutions. Cutting electrical usage to the bare survival minimum can stretch these systems out for even more extended periods of time. This is where the assessment of your survival consumption needs will be helpful to you. Have backup LED lighting, cooking, heating, and cooling options all ready to plug into your system.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who was right or what you believe the problems are or were; the problems still persist. While no large-scale solution or compromising equilibrium may ever be achieved, the problems will persist. Our grid is sagging under the weight of age and use, and the extreme weather that was never calculated into its design could be the final straw that will lead to its collapse. As a prepper, you should give less attention to the screaming debaters and instead prep as though your future life’s security depends upon it because it does. Let the others debate the causes and solutions while you methodically work towards a solution for yourself. Let the alarmists and politicians argue back and forth while you plug in each piece of your unique solution. Prepare for extremes of hot and cold and continued failings of the power infrastructure. It will get much worse before any large-scale solution is found.

What are you doing today as a result of the fragile power system you are witnessing fail? What’s your tip or solution for those new to prepping for when the lights go out for an extended period?

As always, please stay safe out there.

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Lucy
Lucy
2 years ago

Thank you for your articles. So grateful for your insight. I am in the process of prepping on very minimal funding which is Slow going and lower quality items. I am a 52 yr old single woman Living in a camper..which has both its perks and downsides. Your articles keep me headed In the right direction.. You are literally a life saver..thanks again

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