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The Great Blackout Of 1965 Essay

1509 words - 7 pages

On November 9, 1965, over 80,000 square miles were without power throughout areas of Canada and the Northeastern section of the United States. For as many as twelve hours, over 25 million people lived in darkness. This event is widely known as the Great Blackout of 1965. Although it occurred forty nine years ago, the Great Blackout of 1965 has had a major impact on how electricity operation systems work today, and has led to the formation of reliability councils such as the National Electric Reliability Council, now North American Electric Reliability Council, or NERC. Also, this large scale power failure has inspired many film writers to dramatize the Great Blackout.
Background
The blackout originated in an area around the Ontario- New York border, at the Niagara generating station. Like any other ordinary generation station in the 1950’s, it held many strongly interconnected generators. The location of the facility played a big role in the areas that were affected by the blackout. Certain areas throughout New York, Ontario, most of New England, and parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania lost their power. These areas were made up of the Ontario Hydro System, St Lawrence-Oswego, Upstate New York, and New England systems (Handwerk). Within these areas, some small portions were left unaffected. Holyoke, Massachusetts, Hartford, Connecticut, Braintree, Massachusetts and Taunton, Massachusetts, Fairport, New York and Walden, New York had their own power plants, which operators disconnected from the grid which caused them not to lose power (U.S.). Exactly where the power was lost depended on whether or not the transmission lines for the electricity were connected to generators that were strongly interconnected with each other.
Each area affected by the blackout went out at different times. Within five minutes of the initial power surge each island, or division of the power grid, went dark. These islands spread over the span of New England and portions of Canada. For over 13 hours, most of these islands were left without power (Great Northeast).
The overall cause of the blackout was due to human error that had happened days before the blackout. A staff member incorrectly set one of the protective relays on the Niagara transmission lines. The safety relay on the generator is made to trip the transmission line when it surpasses its set capacity of the line. The cool November air called for a higher demand in heating, lighting, and cooking. Since the safety relay was set too low, the transmission line reached its full capacity leading the line to trip (Blackout of 1965).
Normally the trip would only affect the generator that had exceeded the power limit, but in this case, the trip created power surges which traveled to other transmission lines. At 5:16 p.m. a power surge traveled from the Robert Moses generating plant in Lewiston, New York. This power surge caused the already tripped Niagara line to transfer the power to other lines causing them to...

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