Stormy sky

Understanding Electrical Equipment Resiliency and Sustainability in the Face of Disasters Explored During NFPA Electrical Program on May 18

Electrical infrastructure has become such an integral part of our everyday lives that outages can often lead to serious emergency situations where folks are in real danger of being injured or worse. In fact, the events that took place in Texas this past winter are a prime example. When storms took out a large part of the power grid, many were left without power for a considerable amount of time, while also having to battle extreme low temperatures. This storm exposed a weakness in the resiliency of the Texas power grid and for many it meant major property damage and for some others, relocation. Perhaps there is some positive action that we can take away from this tragic event and help prevent something like this from crippling another community like it did in Texas.

The idea that we must prepare our electrical infrastructure to be resilient in the face of disaster is not a new concept. Disasters, both natural and man-made have been a part of our world for years and with technology evolving, it has become such an integral part of our day-to-day, we must be ready for when the unthinkable happens. Backup generator power systems have been the steady method for providing reliable power in the face of tragedy for many types of installations. From the essential electrical system in healthcare facilities to portable generators to power essential loads in our homes, generators are everywhere. However, these systems still rely on a fuel source, usually a fossil fuel, to power them and, well, they can run out.

To combat this and the larger resiliency issue, technology has been in development for years to help make us less dependent on the grid and fossil fuels and to be more energy independent. Adding renewable power supplies along with energy storage systems is becoming more of a standard practice in many areas and with the advent of the DC microgrid, some are even switching to non-utility-type power systems as the primary source. This is an approach that allows businesses and residents to not be as reliant on the grid system as in years past. Certainly, this helps to minimize the impact from damage to utility systems by storms and other disasters. But it also helps to guard against cyberattacks.

Cyber attacks are a common occurrence these days and are a significant threat to the reliability of our electrical infrastructure. Imagine if a public utility’s system were to be infected by ransomware and the entire system shutdown until the ransom had been paid? This could cripple a community if they were not prepared. However, the race is on among the electrical industry to minimize the effect that these attacks might have on the system. Microgrids, energy storage systems, and cybersecurity in electrical infrastructure are some of the most pressing challenges of today. NFPA’s upcoming 125th Anniversary Conference Series kicks off on May 18 with a full-day program called, Empowering Electrical Design, Installation, and Safety, which will focus on these and other related topics challenging today’s electrical industry.

One of the presentations will include a discussion about how equipment resiliency and sustainability must be a part of system design. With dwindling resources, a seemingly increasing threat from natural disasters as the climate of our planet evolves, and the ever-present chance that we could wake up one day to find hackers have shut down the power grid, we need to engage in conversations that will lead us to act and provide for a sustainable and reliable tomorrow.  Join us on May 18 to engage with industry experts as we tackle the topic of resiliency and sustainability and how it applies to your daily work. Learn more and register at nfpa.org/electrical-track.

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Registration is open for NFPA's 125th Anniversary Conference Series
Derek Vigstol
Senior Electrical Content Specialist, focused on technical product/training development

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