I was just reading about solar storms (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/16/opinion/16joseph.html?th&emc=th), and the suggestion that we’re due for one, and the scenario that would ensue: grid breakdown, potentially for years:
“The South African experience was particularly telling — the storm was relatively weak, but by damaging transformers it put parts of the country off-line for months. That’s because high-voltage transformers, which handle enormous amounts of electricity, are the most sensitive part of a grid; a strong electromagnetic pulse can easily fuse their copper wiring, damaging them beyond repair.”
Then I was struck by the sentences bolded below:
“Even worse, transformers are hard to replace. They weigh up to 100 tons, so they can’t be easily moved from the factories in Europe and Asia where most of them are made; right now, there’s already a three-year waiting list for new ones.”
Really? A three year waiting list? Made in Europe and Asia?
Sounds like there’s a guaranteed market right here in America.
So what would it take to start manufacturing these things, right here in America? Resources? Training?
“Fortunately, there are several defenses against solar storms. The most important are grid-level surge suppressors, which are essentially giant versions of the devices we use at home to protect computers. There are some 5,000 vulnerable transformers in North America; at $50,000 for each suppressor, we could protect the grid for about $250 million.
Earlier this year the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow the White House to require utilities to put grid-protection measures in place, then recoup the costs from customers. Unfortunately, the companion bill in the Senate contains no such provision.”
So, utility companies would spend a lot money on stuff made outside of the country, and then we would all pay higher utility bills to cover that, but no one here would get any work out of it, other than continuing to work on the grid…hmmmm…
What if some of those rich folks, like Mayor Bloomberg, Bill Gates (whose fortune, let’s acknowledge, depends on the grid), invest in setting up the manufacture of those things right here in America, employing at least hundreds of people, and saving our own butts in the future?
oh, probably something to do with that cheap labor/profit thing….I forgot…