It hertz when you do that – power grid to stop regulating 60 Hz frequency

“Experiment” on the US power grid will change the way some clocks and other equipment function.

A 60 hertz sine wave, over one cycle (360°). The dashed line represents the root mean square (RMS) value at about 0.707 Image: Wikipedia

Story submitted by Joe Ryan

The AP has released an “exclusive” story concerning the nationwide “experiment” that will be conducted on the US power grid.  The experiment will relieve the power providers from the duty of regulating the frequency of power on the line.

Normally the power stations condition their power to a frequency of 60 cycles a second, a frequency that many old clocks use to maintain their time.  With the new standard, or lack of standard, these clocks will stop keeping time properly.

But the problem is more than that.

First, we have this gem from Joe McLelland who heads the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (from AP article):

“Is anyone using the grid to keep track of time?” McClelland said. “Let’s see if anyone complains if we eliminate it.”

… forgive me for not getting warm fuzzies from this.  Likewise,  Demetrios Matsakis, head of the time service department at the U.S. Naval Observatory, had this to say (AP Article again):

“A lot of people are going to have things break and they’re not going to know why,”

So, we have what appears to be an untested, for the hell of it, “experimental” major change to the US electrical grid coming in a few weeks and those in charge aren’t really sure how it will work or if it may break something?

Not only is this what a LAB is for, but it is also something that the Federal Government should be TELLING people about in advance, and not in an AP “exclusive” press release.

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161 thoughts on “It hertz when you do that – power grid to stop regulating 60 Hz frequency

  1. I suspect that this is going to fry a lot of electronics.
    For what good reason are they doing this, and whatever happened to ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’?
    Florescent lighting will flicker and make a lot of office workers get fatigued early.

  2. Excuse me, but won’t there be wave interence? Could this actually damage electronic devices? Should I disconnect all my devices from electrical outlets during the test?

  3. Lots of farm water supply timers and stuff like that are still running older systems. This should be real interesting. How about older street light and traffic light controls systems, too?

  4. The UK nominally has 230 volts, 50 hz but only has a contractual requirement to provide it within +/- 0.5hz. It gets increased and decreased by known amounts to indicate the load on the national grid, which in turn can be used as a way of deciding when to complete time-insensitive but energy-intensive jobs in manufacturing. The data is available online

  5. I can understand reasons behind this move. It doesn’t mean you’ll have 55 or 65 Hz in your grid from now, for normal people it’ll still be indistinguishable from 60 Hz. But you’ll not have 5,184,000 cycles per day so your alarm clock may diverge by a few seconds a day.
    The reason is, keeping exact number of cycles per day is in fact very expensive. And nowadays when many things don’t need to rely on grid accuracy (cellphones, GPS, …), there is no such need to keep it accurate anymore.

  6. How much variance? How fast? It’s one thing if somebody’s analog oven clock is off, but what’s that going to do to large industrial motors? Nothing good!

  7. I’ll let you when Texas starts to drift …

    This (monitoring) can be done using any standard line-frequency driven clock by accurately setting the time against GPS time and noting the ‘wander’ ahead of or behind where the minute transitions take place.

    .

  8. Induction motors burn out on under-frequency and at about 57 hertz the big steam turbines (both fossil and nuclear) begin spitting out their blades (they’re typically protected by automatic tripping at 57.5 hertz). However, I think all they’re talking about here is eliminating the requirement that if the grid runs a few cumulative cycles slow today (over a 24-hour period), it must run a few cumulative cycles fast tomorrow to make up the difference.

    My concern is that this may be only the first step in degrading an utterly reliable system into a “hit or miss” calamity like third world countries experience in order to accommodate alternate energy. What I’m sure is going on is that many of those electronic ignoramus/geniuses such as some at Google are slowly getting onto the fact that that you cannot just “plug and play” generation into a synchronous system whenever you feel like it without destabilizing consequences. Life was tough enough for power dispatchers when all they had to do was chase variations in load 24/7. Any instantaneous difference between generation and load results in sufficient frequency variation to make up the difference. That’s how “spinning reserve” prime-mover governing systems know to kick the throttle either up or down. They sense speed change and restore the system to 60-hertz. Chasing wind and solar generation variations with each puff of wind or cloud passing over in addition to chasing load is making the dispatching job just that much more difficult and expensive. It means keeping lots more fossil-fired and hydro “spinning reserve” machines on line to do the up and down throttling.

    Letting frequency wander a bit is just another way of saying we’ll degrade the whole system in order to accommodate renewables for the sake of political correctness. We certainly cannot make an economic case for renewable energy. By the time our federal geniuses get done “smartening up the grid” I fear you’ll be surprised anytime you flip the switch on and your house lights actually illuminate.

    CH

  9. In my dealings grid connected generation systems, We keep the 60 hz 60 hz because bad things begin to happen when the frequency shifts to far from the nominal. The power generation on the grid is syncronized. If this sync is lost, again bad things will happen.

  10. Frequency is what the interconnection of grids and cogeneration is based on. Variable Frequency Drives require a base frequency to work properly and 60 HZ is it. Speed regulation will be affected as well as heat rejection depending what range the grid frequency varies. This has to be a joke right? What possible benefit could there be to this? Is this so cheaper wind turbines can be put on the grid. This is insane and so is whoever proposed this!

  11. this will also change the amount of energy your appliances use, the way they function, and potential kill some of the the older motor driven equipment…

    what is the purpose of this very dangerous and foolish little en-devour…

  12. This sounds like a classic government attempt to “deregulate” something for the sole purpose of re-regulate it later but with 100x the regulation to “fix the problem”.

    Simple process.

    Find something that can be deregulated that will cause highly visible events.

    Force the group to change away from the current regulate after its been “deregulated”.

    Do it as quietly and as secretly as possible so the public has no idea and any simple fixes the public could employ are not done.

    Wait for public backlash.

    Blame the “deregulation” and the power companies(in this case).

    Say we need more regulation.

    Pass dozens of laws that have nothing to due with fixing the problem but massively expand government power/regulation/push the “agenda”.

    Create massive new government group to regulate power companies(in this case).

    “Fix the problem”

    Take credit for fixing the problem through regulation and say “this is another spot light case of deregulation failing and why we need more money/regulation/government to fix the problems”.

  13. This is why it’s stupid to give government the control of who does what when it comes to the energy industry.

  14. I fact come to think of it, in Ontario with our wind turbines popping up like weeds I have to wonder if this is already happening here. I am experiencing unexplained failures on an increasing basis over the last few years. VFDs are blowing up at a rate that can’t be explained by production defects.

  15. Hey – let’s change the AC freq and see what happens! Let’s nationalise healthcare and see what happens! Let’s hobble the economy with the green agenda and see what happens! What fun!

    I say: let’s put into office an administration that isn’t anti-American, anti-free enterprise, and anti-Constitution, and see what happens!

  16. If you love this, just wait for the “smart” (aka dumb as a rock after it is hacked) grid. No small wonder I am hoping to get enough solar to dump my grid.

  17. WTF says on June 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Frequency is what the interconnection of grids and cogeneration is based on. Variable Frequency Drives require a base frequency to work properly and 60 HZ is it. Speed regulation will be affected as well as heat rejection depending what range the grid frequency varies. This has to be a joke right? What possible benefit could there be to this?

    This will mean that any ‘cycles slips’ during peak usage periods will NOT be made up during the overnight hours … if less than 100% generation is ‘on line’ (think wind mills) and cycle slips occur this will not be ‘made up’ …

    As it is, cycle slips occur throughout a day, and usually are made up overnight.

    A mild case of ‘cycle slipping’ here, from about -90 to +90 degrees in phase; note the change in the Lissajous pattern shape indicating phase relationship changing:

    Mainly, this will affect time-keeping devices that are AC-line driven. Something called an “under-frequency relays” will trip throwing generating plant equipment off-line if a drop to as low as 58 Hz occurs (where 60 Hz is nominal) …

    .

  18. Most manufacturers of electronic & electrical products know the effects of frequency variance on their products. Itstead of ‘experimenting’ with safety of all individuals in th country, how about asking manufacturers instead?

    John

  19. This will also affect clearence rates of breakers and fuses depending on the frequency variation. Fault current will change with frequency which renders safety design useless. I just read the article again. This is for integration of wind and solar and I truly believe that they are causing disruptions and equipment failures now with the tight frequency regulation. Electronics will not like this as they are not designed for a changing frequency. Need to figure out a way to prove this so the Government can be sued.

  20. This could have a devastating affect on the sun’s magnetic field, so as to both increase and decrease cosmic ray flux and destroy life on earth, or maybe it’s just an attempt to jump start the sun ;>)

  21. Back in the 1960s, my father was running equipment that used the 60 Hz electrical cycle to keep track of time, so he made some inquiries to find out how accurate it was. He was told that while small frequency anomalies could accumulate into a noticeable error during a day, each night in the middle of the night, the grid operators would purposely create whatever counteracting anomalies were needed to keep a cumulative error from building up over multiple days. I presume this middle of the night correction is what they are planning to eliminate.

    Obviously, the old analog and electromechanical clocks would start accumulating errors with this change.

  22. JimK says on June 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm:

    Lots of farm water supply timers and stuff like that are still running older systems. This should be real interesting. How about older street light and traffic light controls systems, too?

    I’m thinking about ball-field light timers* that *always* seem to be off time-wise anyway in our city (off and on too early it seems; too early in the evening esp with the days as long they are this time of year!) … this will wreak just a little more havoc on water sprinkler timers and light timers stuck away in hard to get at places (even if they have power-off time keeping, they usually count line frequency then available because it has been so reliable in the past!)

    Over time, the accrued – or more likely the loss of – tens of seconds will amount to minutes then tens of minutes …

    *Outside lights should be controlled via sun/daylight sensors anyway!

    .

  23. “In the future, more use of renewable energy from the sun and wind will mean more variations in frequency on the grid, McClelland said. Solar and wind power can drop off the grid with momentary changes in weather. Correcting those deviations is expensive and requires instant back-up power to be always at the ready, he said.”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/24/ap/tech/main20074275.shtml#ixzz1QKcgsuis

    _____________________________________________________________________

    I think it is an appeasement to the green agenda. it is their new method of operation.. Hide the changes in secrecy, implement them, and only tell the public after it is happening…

    the science doesn’t support the agenda.. so do it in secret to obtain your wants… this has a very scary and tyrannical ring to it.. I wondered why Obama is spending 4X the money on secrecy and staff to enforce it than ANY previous president..

    disturbing this move is…

  24. Right now Nicola Tesla must be spinning in his grave…at somewhere between 55 and 60 hertz!
    Only kidding, truth is he’s not ‘phased’ by this story.
    All generators hooked to the grid must be running at the same speed…otherwise you’d get power loss and ultimately phase cancellation, then sparks and smoke. So don’t worry too much.

  25. WTF says:
    June 25, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I fact come to think of it, in Ontario with our wind turbines popping up like weeds I have to wonder if this is already happening here. I am experiencing unexplained failures on an increasing basis over the last few years. VFDs are blowing up at a rate that can’t be explained by production defects.

    _____________________________________________

    this is what happens to electronic componates when they are subjected to voltage and frequency out side of their design specs. Diodes are composited in precise ways.. for the specific task and many require the specific down time to discharge stored energy. if this is altered it can end in catastrophic failures….

    think of the medical equipment that keeps people alive… i wonder if these dopes have really thought this through? Do they know what a lab is?

  26. Just because the Feds stop regulating this doesn’t mean that the power companies will suddenly ignore the needs of their customers and let the frequency wander off 60 Hz. But it may be wise to contact your electric provider and demand assurances that the frequency and number of cycles per day will remain stable.

  27. It’s disturbing how they play this off as something that will just make some clocks inaccurate. Many people’s expensive electronics are going to get fried during a bad economy when they will be unable to afford replacements. Why are certain people so determined to deprive the working classes of the modern world’s benefits?

  28. Hmm, perhaps this is just the latest attempt at stimulus…

    The Fed’s free money greased nary a skid,
    Despite spending we’re still in the basement.
    So they’ll bust machines with the electrical grid
    and force us to buy the replacements!

  29. Y’all are blowing this way out of proportion.

    They aren’t talking about loosening the frequency requirements, letting them wander over 60.5 or under 59.5 – that would be a big deal. Every electric utility operations center in the country has a giant frequency display. Maintaining 60 hz is a high priority. Failing to do so results in big fines. Utilities have relay that will automatically shed customers if the frequency falls to low.

    They are not talking about changing this.

    They are talking about eliminating a requirement to purposely push the frequency high for a little while to make up for times when you let it wander low – and vice versa – purely for the sake of keeping antiquated clocks accurate.

    Y2K was a much much bigger deal – and somehow the world didn’t end then either.

  30. I think the idea that this is simply dropping the idea that over 24 hrs (or so) the average has to be exactly 60Hz, as was mentioned above.

    A long time ago I visited a power station (in the UK). There were two clocks on the wall, one driven by a synchronous motor (normal electric clock – old style) and a wind-up chronometer.

    They were within a second or so of each other. I asked what they were for. The response was that under heavy load the frequency dropped very slightly, and the electric clock ran slow. At night, under light load, they would wind up the generators a bit until both clocks told the same time.

    I would hope that the mechanisms in use today are a little more automated and sophisticated – although, with the electrical generation industry one never knows.

    Later, when studying electrical engineering I came to understand how this all works. As a simple description, when a generator is fired up it spins up to speed, and the phase of the generated voltage is carefully matched to the grid – old school, this was done by having a bulb in each phase between the generator and the grid. When all the bulbs were out, the phase difference was as close to zero as matters, and the big switch thrown to connect the generator.

    Once connected, the generator is effectively locked in sync. If you try to slow it, it draws power from the grid to keep its speed up — it effectively acts as a motor. If you apply torque to it to try to speed it up, it pushed power into the grid – its then generating.

    For the grid frequency to change, all the generators in the grid have to slow down or speed up together – they do under high/low load. Regulating the long term frequency simply requires communication across the grid .

    The only reason I can think of for not doing this is that it does require pushing more power into the grid to speed things up – increase frequency to compensate for the drop under high load.

    My bet is is that with current fuel prices, some bean counter calculated that they could save a dollar or two by not pushing beyond exactly 60Hz.

    —-

    An interesting story my EE lecturer told was when he was young, working for a manufacturer of generators. They installed a new generator weighing several tons. Fired it up, and being in a hurry only monitored one phase (3-phase generator). When it was in sync, they threw the big switch. That was when they discovered that the other two phases were reversed.

    The generator ripped its bolts out of its concrete foundation, and disappeared through the generator shed roof.

    There are amazing amounts of power available with a direct connection to the grid.

  31. I’m not an electrical engineer. But I’m also not a guinea pig ( at least not voluntarily). I’ll bet dollars to donuts that somebody “modeled” this, and surprise! The model said no problemo. Riiiiighht.

  32. oops , meant to add this ranks up there with allocating radio communications freqencies for terrestrial data communications (Lightsuared) slap bang on GPS L1 frequency – and >>quelle surprise<< it buggers up GPS receivers.

    see some CYA press releases :

    http://www.gpsworld.com/survey/lightsquared-high-precision-receivers-are-collateral-damage-11802?utm_source=GPS&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Survey-Scene_06_22_2011&utm_content=lightsquared-high-precision-receivers-are-collateral-damage-11802

    Competence? …. from the gubmint ?

  33. Computers etc. are driven by DC from internal Power Supplies, essentially rectifiers etc. So will phase fluctuation alter voltage levels?

  34. Can anyone smell class action suits? If those above who think this is a small matter, wait until the lawyers file class actions for pain and suffering because their clocks were wrong.

  35. There are over 5 million 60 Hz cycles in a 24 hour period. If these average just 1/100 of 1% off in frequency, the accumulated error over 24 hours will be about 500 cycles, causing an 8-second error for those devices counting cycles to keep track of time.

    Cycle-by-cycle errors of this magnitude are not noticeable by any electrical or electronic equipment; the question is how many devices are still just counting cycles to keep track of time long term.

  36. @ bob sykes says:
    June 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Excuse me, but won’t there be wave interence? Could this actually damage electronic devices? Should I disconnect all my devices from electrical outlets during the test?

    The test is going to last for an entire year according to the AP story. So you might want to reconsider unplugging. Or maybe not. And then there’s the folks who rely on home medical equipment that may or may not be impacted.

    I just want to know who to sue if my wife dies because of this.

  37. Old equipment may not like large variances from 60 Hz but new equipment is designed to run on power from 50 to 60 Hz – Europe is 50 Hz, North America is 60 Hz. Look on the tag on your appliances – eg the power supply for my Dell Computer (one of several) says 100 – 240 volts, 2.5 amps, 50 – 60 Hz. In an ever shrinking world, manufacturers allow for such things. The biggest issue is voltage drops and spikes which can damage electronics in a hurry. Working off shore with lousy power for 40 years, we always had power conditioners in our compounds. I now have it on my house as I live in a rural area subject to brown outs and spikes (and power outages – I have a 16 kw automated generator). The variation in Hz shouldn’t be an issue for individuals but I can’t comment about industrial applications. I wonder what the North American grid partners have to say about this? I know some power companies are very, very sensitive about this and require specific monitoring and frequency matching equipment to be installed by suppliers to the grid to safeguard their systems.

  38. Claude Harvey is really hitting the nail on the head with his comments. It ain’t gonna be easy to accommodate all these variable inputs from wind generation into the grids. Wind would make more sense if we could store the variable wind energy and then use the stored energy to generate electricity in a more reliable, as needed, way. Pump water or compress air, something like that. The utilities have to pay for every kilowatt the windmills generate whether they need them or not, but they can never depend on it being available. I just cringe every time I see another windmill being erected – more trouble and expense than they will ever be worth – and I will get to help pay the bill.

  39. Many phase-balanced lines use capacitors specifically resonant to 60 Hz. If the frequency changes, the ability to maintain phase-balanced lines will be more difficult. I had to install phase balancing capacitors in my home electric panel in order to run my X10 automation system. If the line frequency starts drifting, I may have intermittent automation on half my X10 system. Any other system that sends signals through the house wiring and requires a phase-balanced load will have similar problems.

    The 60Hz frequency applies to a three phase transmission system. Will each leg of the three phases rise and fall in unison, or will there be varying frequencies on each of the three legs? If the frequency varies across each leg, that is going to be one very expensive experiment.

  40. Goodbye to all our compact fluorescent bulbs! Power here in North Texas goes down fairly often, and despite having every table lamp plugged into surge suppressor outlets or strips, we lose a couple of CF’s every time. I’m switching out to LEDs when they improve a bit.

  41. There are so many “old” time driven systems that jump to mind that could potentially be effected by this. Has anyone thought about the the antiquated Air Traffic control system?

    I’d like to think someone is considering this stuff but, as the AP article indicates, we’re just lab rats in this process and nobody has been alerted and nobody has been given a chance to prepare for it.

  42. David Thomson says:
    June 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    The 60Hz frequency applies to a three phase transmission system. Will each leg of the three phases rise and fall in unison, or will there be varying frequencies on each of the three legs? If the frequency varies across each leg, that is going to be one very expensive experiment.

    ___________________________________________________

    Most big generation stations are wired three phase coming out of each of the generation units. so the variation is in unison..across the legs…

  43. From what others have said, it’s clear that the 60 Hz frequency will be maintained, but that adjusting the frequency slightly each night to make the numer of cycles per day stay constant will no longer be required. While this may affect clocks and timers, power outages do too. Even if the practice were kept in place, you’d still have to adjust your sprinkler timer every so often, especially here in Florida where thunderstorms frequently cause brief power outages (and hurricanes cause looong power outages).

  44. Calm Down Everybody!
    Large utility turbines are “tuned” for a specific speed/frequency and any significant deviation will cause them to be damaged; you can bet that utilities will keep the frequency pretty darn close to the design speed, if for no other reason than to avoid voiding warranties.
    Load shedding schemes, which utilize relays which measure frequency and are programmed to shed load when the frequency drops below certain thresholds, this will also limit the range of excursion on frequency.
    Currently utilities match load vs. generation by making certain their load/generation balance tracks above and below the balance point several times an hour. On hot summer days, generation tends to “sag”, and frequency slips in the entire grid (the largest grid includes all of the states and provinces east of the Rockies, except Texas, which is independent.) Utilities would agree to overspeed slightly at prearranged times to re-synchronize the grid versus a virtual synchronous clock. Anytime major generation is suddenly lost, say a 500 MW unit in Florida trips off because someone bumped a trip unit, there is no way the grid can instantly make up for the lost generation; the entire grid East of the Rockies, all the way to Northwest Canada, slows slightly as the inertia of every spinning generator on the grid (and to a certain extent motors) is converted into energy to make up for the lost generation.
    The routine excursions in frequency will not affect 99.999 percent of equipment, in fact, a lot of equipment, like motors can be used at 50 or 60 HZ, as long as you take into account changes in heating/cooling effects, and there is no effect at all on incandescent lights and toasters and such.

  45. So now we know what Steven Chu was calling the low-hanging fruit of efficiency.

    This is a step towards the smart grid – they’re going to use tiny variations in frequency to indicate load so they can institute variable pricing and charge us a lot more for electricity in the late afternoon and evening when we really need it.

  46. @ temp says: June 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I fear that you are spot on. This sort of thing is nothing new, and is precisely how we get an average of 86,000 pages of new regulations EVERY YEAR!

  47. Anything that runs on a household/small office UPS system when the power goes off will survive – those produce non-sine wave, non-60Hz power, and the bigger problem is the non-sine wave power, that’s what makes transformers sound funny on a UPS.

    Not a real big deal, I expect, except for clocks, and there are millions of people who rely on cycle counting clocks still.

  48. According to the IEEE discussion forums, a variation of 0.5Hz will trip some of the inter-tie safety trip devices so we can’t be talking about large frequency variations across the grid or it would shut down. It may be that the US government is allowing some small power suppliers (solar/wind) to supply off frequency. Other “big” suppliers can regulate the grid frequency by adjusting their output. But this sounds like indirect taxation – making the big power suppliers manage the system while allowing wind and solar to input with out appropriate frequency matching regulation. Just a guess, but it makes sense from what I have read.

    I think Claude Harvey at June 25, 2011 at 3:27 pm had it right.

  49. There was an episode of the old Superman TV series where they did this to speed up the clocks in this guy’s impenetrable chamber. His plan was to stay in the chamber until the statute of limitations ran out on his crime. The fast clocks tricked him into emerging early and he was busted.

    Classic TV!

  50. My Mr Coffee machine must have gotten the word early, since it’s been gaining a few minutes a day for some time, and is now about twelve hours ahead. I’m retired and don’t use the timer to start brewing, so I just find it interesting that its supposedly synchronous motor could be so far out of sync. Come to think of it, it probably doesn’t have a synchronous motor, but an electronic counter of some sort.

  51. Well, that was illuminating. So to speak.
    It would appear that very few people on this board have more than a smattering of understanding about electricity.
    Look at it this way. If the generators can’t keep the dynamos synched with the grid then welcome to Puerto Rico occasional power.

  52. Who thinks of these STUPID ideas?

    The mechanical clocks use the 60 Hz to keep track of time, yes it can vary some, but in a day, it must be 24 hours x 60 minutes x 60 seconds x 60 Hz. Otherwise, the time is off. LED Clocks and your VCR keep track counting the 60 Hz too.

    IF they decide to go with this stupid idea, who is going to pay for the replacements of all the clocks?

  53. I suspect that this is something to do with the intermitency and variability of green energy being accomodated by the grid. That said, I am unsure that this will have a significant effect on consumer electronics since the mains AC power in to these units is adated by a power supply unit (PSU) down to between 1.5 to 12 volts DC depending upon application. Highly sensitive equipment has a sophisticated PSU specifically designed to filter out ‘noise’ and maintain a constant DC supply voltage. For HiFi units you can buy equipment that will further filter the mains to provide an even steadier input supply.

  54. This will also present a problem for those with home solar panels, and sell their excess power to the power company.
    They must use an inverter, and connect through a GTI (grid-tie-in) circuit. If they don’t get the frequency right, then feedback in BOTH directions will be present.

  55. Spinning reserve costs money, the generators have to be coupled to the system but not be actively producing power. When wind power fluctuates the power on the grid this reserve is there to accommodate the change, maintaining 60 Hz. I suspect that the object of the exercise is to reduce the spinning reserve requirements so that this lost generation can be put to use providing real power to the system. Which will effectively increase the installed capacity of the system.

    3 phase system voltages rise and fall at different times, each phase is displaced by 120 electrical degrees so that the voltage peaks 3 times each cycle. If you reverse connect any two phases in a three phase system the phase rotation will reverse, causing motors to run in the reverse direction.
    Before connecting any 3 phase equipment a check is made to ensure that the phase rotation is correct.

  56. Another thing to keep in mind is that frequency control units, that is the generating units that can change throttle fast enough to maintain frequency, are high temperature steam plants. They are usually coal or gas powered.

    Hydro and Nuclear plants are normally run ‘block loaded’, that is with their governors set fairly insensitive to frequency changes. 5% ‘droop’ is what block loaded generators are set to. That is, they would require a 5% change in line frequency to change their throttle power level by a factor of 100%. As you might imagine, normal power line frequency excursions are much smaller than 5% so their power output remains relatively constant.

    Governors in frequency control units are set to lower ‘droop’ values, but still high enough to maintain system stability. Frequency control, in the form of maintaining cycle count over time is done electronically now. The frequency control unit governor set point is adjusted up and down to maintain long term cycle count.

    Right off the top of my head I cannot see any reason to eliminate this function to match up with wind and solar generators. Most of those units use electronic inverters to connect to grid so frequency does not matter to the mechanics of the equipment. I suppose it is possible that there are some synchronous wind generators (generating 60 Hertz directly from the generator windings) but this seems more expensive a design than simply rectifying a wind generator alternator output and applying that to an inverter to match with the line frequency.

    There might be some advantage in allowing the frequency to ‘droop’ intentionally over some narrow predictable range. Line frequency could then provide a signal to customers when generation capacity is low or high to allow them to adjust their loads appropriately. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is part of the picture. If it was, I’d expect it to be described in detail to justify the change.

    So what might the reason be? A tiny increment less coal or gas burned at night to make up cycles? Seems like a dumb idea to me.

  57. Will this make the annoying flickering of fluorescent bulbs even worse? This may be Edison’s final slap at Tesla.

  58. GaryW,

    It could be interesting. What if with today’s technology we could build into our appliances a demand side droop of say 2%, regulated by the manufacturers. So if during a low frequency excursion the collective load were to respond before the generators did the heavy lifting, there would be fewer brown outs or under-frequency load shedding events where the customers are disconnected from the system to preserve frequency. I was thinking about zero droop for demand side but that probably would cause instability because there would be no inertia in the system.

  59. Modern elecronic appliances with switch mode power supplies will not be ‘phased’ by the reduced frequency stability but some older stuff with linear power supplies and 60Hz optimised transformers may operate at reduced efficiency and the variable frequency could modulate the secondary voltage enough to cause problems ranging from faulty operaton to reduced life or even rapid failure if the instability is severe enough. The problems could be far more reaching for industry though. Any motor driven equipment that employs power factor corrections is vulnerable. Change the frequency and you automatically modulate PF correction with potentially catastrophic results if resonance is achieved between the load inductance and XC correction.
    The odd part about this is that there’s absolutely no need to reduce frequency regulation of the grid. The notion that 1% accuracy is costly is really absurd. With the low cost of GPS receivers today it’s now cheaper than ever to synchronise all parts of the grid incuding greem sources such as wind and solar. If anything there should be new regulations applying to green energy sources to ensure that stability is not compromised.
    As we move into the new green future the problems with frequency stability and and harmonic distortion are only going to get much greater.
    This announcent is completely out of phase with common sense.

  60. Thanks for the information – worthwhile comparing notes!!

    Here in Australia, we are in the process of a compulsory changeover to smart meters with the cost of the meter charged to your power bill, but you never own the meter. There are concerns over the way power is charged for and third party electrical engineers are selling after market installations that are claimed to reduce bills while maintaining a more constant power load to your home appliances.

    All I know is that since installation, bar heaters don’t work that well and turning lights on and off cause the other lights to flicker, and the new energy saving globes burn out very quickly, (3 months ?) and while I have not had motor burnouts, many people are also reporting that shortly after installation of the meters they have had appliance motors burn out in washing machines and refrigerators -perhaps coincidence – I hope so. The smart meter is 1 phase 2 wire 240 volt 15 – 100 Amp, CI 1.0, 50 hertz it says.

  61. Many people may not realize this. Power companies buy and sell power, based on supply and demand. This leads to very interesting situations. When a power company is generating too much power, it is often cheaper to sell the power than to power down the generators. However, as often happens, all the power plants sometimes have too much power at the same time. What happens next is a hoot!

    The price of power then goes negative. Yes negative. Power companies acutally pay other power companies to take their excess power! Especially places like California where they have lots of “green” power. They can’t just turn the power on and off, so when they have too much, and there is no one who needs power, they actually pay people to take power off their hands. As much as $.17 KWh.

    To bad you and I the lowly consumer aren’t in on this deal. I’d be more than happy to turn on my electric heaters if someone was paying me. Instead you and I end up paying the retail price, at the same time the power company is paying someone else to take the power! So much for smart meters.

  62. It’s not just a few people with old style clocks. Many older PLCs use the 60Hz as a time reference to control industrial processes. A lot of European equipment designed to run on 50Hz won’t run here without a buck-and-boost. There may be a few factories put out of commission by this change.

  63. You guys that are telling us to calm down, I sure hope you are right. Because if this screws up my computer, I’m going to be p.o.ed!

    The government is somehow going to find a way to screw up our power grid and turn us into a third world country by these so-called “experiments.”

  64. Solar inverters are required to disconnect from the grid when the frequency goes out of spec which for 60 Hz is 59.3 – 60.5 Hz. They must also respond to this change within 10 cycles. The inverter will reconnect once the power is in spec for 5 minutes (UL1741/IEEE1547), There are going to be a LOT of idle solar power systems if this is allowed to go too far. There is a call to make changes to the standards so that solar can actually help stabilize the grid during sags and short events.

  65. Althos says:

    Spinning reserve costs money, the generators have to be coupled to the system but not be actively producing power…

    Spinning reserve has three functions.

    First there is fast spinning reserve which must react very quickly to arrest the fall in frequency to levels that will cause plant to trip. It is not required to tremain in place for more than a few seconds to a minute. It is generally provided by plant that is connected to the system and generating, but not at full load. Conventional thermal stations and hydro stations are great at providing this. Even with a relaxation in the frequency keeping standards this fast PLSR (Partly Loaded Spinning Reserve) will still be needed to prevent cascade failures.

    Second is Sustained PLSR. This is supplied by plant that is connected to the system and generating but not at full looad, and is slower to react than Thermal or Hydro. CCGTS often come into this category, as do hydro plant on Tail Water Depressed or Synchronous Condensor mode. This is probably the area where savings can be made.

    Third is Standby reserve. This is plant that is available, but not spinning. It must be plant than can be started quickly like hydro or Gas Turbine plant. This type of reserve will still be needed.

  66. I do hope they have done a full cost benefit analysis of Murphy’s Law, which seems to be prevalent in all things connected to green. The laws of unintended consequences are pussy when compared to Murphy’s Law.

  67. The only computers I have that use 60 Hz from the power line for their clocks are my PDP-11’s and my Commodore 64’s. I doubt that many C64’s are now used in process control, but one can still buy PDP-11 CPU’s from non-DEC sources (well actually DEC no longer exists) and I suspect there are a good number of them hidden away in systems where they have been working flawlessly for decades. I guess we’ll find out soon enough where some of these ancient PDP-11’s are being used that employ a power line 60 Hz frequency standard. Most of the applications I wrote for the PDP11 used a clock board for the sub-msec precision timing I needed but I remember being amazed at how good the power line frequency was at keeping time in the 1980’s.

  68. It was this type of ‘I wonder what will happen if—‘ thinking that caused the Chernobyl problem. I hope that the American nuclear stations are not frequency sensitive.

    But why would they do it?

  69. Here’s something for you to chew on:

    I’ve been thinking about this, and if the reason given – only a money saving issue – why was it not shouted from the rooftops, and why has there been no notification in our monthly statements? This doesn’t add up.

    Given all the concern about Cyberwar lately (Stuxnet, etc ), I wonder if there is any connection to that? I’m retired military, and one of the things that is commonly done is to test systems for defensive capability: What is the effect of such and such kind of attack on our systems and how do we defend against it?

  70. pat [June 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm] says:

    “Maybe they could start with a small experiment in Washington DC first.”

    Now that’s what I call good thinking!

  71. Deja Vu. In a faraway land, a long time ago, the aroma of an open air fresh meat vendor(1-2 day) displayed on wood planks created a lasting sensory memory.

    Smells like that hired gunfighter that sits at the round table with his double barreled blue ink pen – Cass Sunstein the regulatory tsar. A nudge here, a nudge there. Cattle prod even when the cattle are moving along just fine.

  72. OLD clocks don’t have AC power cords. They have mainsprings and a key to wind them.

    NEW clocks may or may not have power cords but they do not rely on AC line frequency but rather have quartz crystal oscillators to establish a time base.

    SOME clocks that are neither old nor new use AC line frequency as a timebase. These are about as important to keep working properly as rotary dial telephones.

  73. bob sykes says:
    June 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    “Could this actually damage electronic devices?”

    No.

    “Should I disconnect all my devices from electrical outlets during the test?”

    No.

    They aren’t talking about radical changes to line frequency. They are talking about not making fine adjustments so that the total number of cycles each day adds up to precisely the right number. Line frequency varies by a tiny fraction from moment to momentfor routine and largely unavoidable reasons. Power companies monitor the variation and then purposely cause variations the serve to balance the net variation to zero each day. Nothing but a small and diminishing number of clocks will be effected and those would only be effected such that they might randomly gain or lose a few seconds each day. Even then they won’t be any less accurate over longer periods of time because on average the days where they lose a few seconds will be nullified by days when they gain a few seconds.

    Talk about making a mountain of a molehill… this is a total non-concern that isn’t worth a moment’s time, trouble, or effort to warn or prepare the public for it.

  74. My understanding of spinning reserve is slightly different. The reserve is the difference between the rated capacity of a power generation unit and the load it is actually operating at. It is spinning because the unit is operating and on-line. Thus, a 600 MW unit operating at 450MW has 150 MW in spinning reserve. It doesn’t take very long for the plant to increase the load to 600 because the boiler and steam turbine are already in operation, compared to bringing a unit up from cold shutdown. Some units can be shut down, but keep a fire in the boiler so it doesn’t get cold, and then come back up pretty quickly when they are needed. At least this was my experience when I worked in a power plant 30 years ago.

  75. Nonegatives says:
    June 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    “This reminds me of the hype over the Y2K “issue””

    On a tiny scale, yes. 1998-2000 saw a huge boom in computer sales as companies and individuals rushed into early replacement. It also resulted in a computer sales depression right afterward. The road to Y2K was a road to fortune for some of us as we invested heavily in the benefactors (Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Compaq, etc.) before the boom years and sold off before the downturn in sales happened after Y2K.

    The chance of repeating that windfall by investing in clock companies is nil.

  76. starzmom says:
    June 26, 2011 at 7:19 am

    They have some pretty fancy predictive software now they didn’t have 30 years ago that takes all sorts of factors into account to predict demand and schedule production capacity accordingly days and weeks in advance. Big bucks are involved in making substantial improvements in load prediction and scheduling so it gets a lot of attention by really smart people. It’s sort of like communications companies sparing no effort in software development to squeeze more data through the same transmission hardware. Tiny improvements have disproportionately large payoffs.

    Anyhow, with the improved prediction in demand less spinning reserve is scheduled. The less spinning reserve that’s needed and the more profitable the power plant. When prediction fails a prime example is what happened in Texas this past winter. Weather forecasts were predicting much warmer low temperatures and in actuality record low temperatures across a lot of the state happened. There wasn’t enough spinning reserve and simutaneously a couple of natural gas fired plants fell offline due to freeze damage. These plants supplied the power to some electrical booster pumps along natural gas pipelines. Simultaneous with that was increased demand for natural gas heating in businesses and residences which heat with gas instead of electricity. This resulted in a large pressure drop in some gas supply pipelines which forced even more gas fired plants to reduce production due to insufficient fuel. It cascaded fast and planned rolling blackouts for as long as it took to get non-spinning capacity back online. Several hours as I recall.

  77. Frequency modulation will just be a symptom of the intermittant nature of wind and solar. They are using this as an excuse to not have sufficient standby ready for when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shineing. Load response is the issue. Frequency modulation is a way to respond to fluctuating loads and supply. Frequency modulation also helps ensure that voltage remains constant. Each is dependant on the other. Personally I don’t give a **** whether my clock loses or gains time. I am concerned about the effects this MAY have on industrial equipment if it is not regulated properly. As I said earlier I suspect I am already seeing the results of adding more wind and solar onto the grid in Ontario and it ain’t pretty.

  78. um –
    1stly – David Thomson says:
    June 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm 3 phase – all the phases are generated by the same generator – they are not separate; so all 3 phases are as solidly ties together as the guts of the machinary. So no problems there; each phase will remain + or – 120.0000….. degrees different from the other two.

    I hope someone will get you clarification; as the potential damage is a lot more subtle and invidious than any so far discussed.

    For instance; I was helping some plant in Vermont on Friday set up a control to maintain 80 deg C water temperature; using a thing called a PID loop (or three term controller) to control some electronic switching on the heater. A PID uses three variables to maintain control; all of which run in the time domain. In some plants this control is sensitive to millisecond changes in execution time over a 1 second base – so it will be sensitive to small changes in frequency.

    OK – so what ? Well with a heating control; that is optimised for financial efficiency – change the 60Hz and that’s no longer working efficiently. If it’s controlling via relays those relays are going to work harder for frequency drops as the PID will become less responsive – potentially reducing service life as well.

    Um; I can think of an abattoir in Scandinavia where the chiller cabinets are cascaded (10 cabinets- all joined up to make a single run). No doubt you have similar set ups in the US – that installation was horribly sensitive to tiny changes in the time domain (the previous error gets multiplied in each loop) – anything unstable in the time domain is going to cause vast amounts of problems.

    This is why the VFD (variable frequency drives) are not running so well – the control algorythm is shot if you are using PI or PID control (think of it this way; PID works in the time domain – change of the working frequency of the controlled device is the same as a change of the executions per second of the PID equation; therefore all terms (PI or PID) will need re-tuning at the new frequency).

    I think what you need to do is demand a full and public disclosure about what laxity is being planned – and how long for; and what are the long term requirements to maintain 60Hz average.

    In the meantime – note to self – warn all the engineers in employer’s US tech support and global tech support to consider making US customers monitor line frequencies as part of any investigation to VFD problems; solid state AC switch problems and complaints about useless PID controllers …..

    We are going BACKWARDS –
    no more super sonic flight
    no more space flight (sorry; earth orbit mini habitat is NOT real space flight)
    no more Moon flights
    soon – no more dependable mains supply
    soon – no reliable mains supply
    soon – no 20th century infrastructure leading to the return of the middle ages with high child mortality; short and brutal lives for all bar the elite (and guess who they are going to be…)

  79. Don’t worry about keeping time. It seems most of our alarm clocks these days are made in China and use a 555 rc multivibrator to generate the clock pulses (or its equivalent on a chip along with the rest of the junk). I have one that gains 20 minutes a day. No way to rubber the r or the c either.

  80. As an electrical engineer, I can understand this: this is crazy. If it is an enviro inspired “regulation” to enable the hydro distribution to cater for more unreliable electricity production (wind and solar) then it will be counter-productive as the various machines on the supply will operate more inefficiently, nullifying any imaginary gain due to “renewable” energy.

    If there is no enivro-plot behind this, then it is simply stupid.

  81. Showing my age, but I remember during and post WW II when the power system was struggling to keep up in Sydney, electric clocks had a very bad reputation. It was so bad that the hobby magazine of the time followed its construction project for a synchronous clock with a project for a pendulum electric clock. Now, clocks are in plain sight, and get reset if the error is too much. But time switches are installed just because they can work unattended, so they can accumulate errors over months and be a long way off before they get noticed and corrected. I was shopping last week, and noticed that the synchronous time switches had been replaced on display with quartz versions. But there will be a lot of synchronous time switches still in service, and probably some large clocks in public places that will suffer. Keep an eye open for radio masts and TV towers that don’t switch their obstruction lights at the right time, or have strobes at day level (20,000 candelas) at night, when they should be at night level (2,000 candelas). That will annoy the neighbors, to say nothing of the pilots!

  82. Dave Springer is right, mountain out of molehill. The frequency variations during the day won’t change, just the make-up cycles late at night. During the day, under heavy load, the line frequency usually drops a bit, 59.7-59.9 Hertz. At night, it usually runs high to make up for it. Which probably costs a few cents more, spinning those generators a tad faster. So the utilities will raise your rates to make up for their slightly reduced costs.

    What I want to know is how they swap power with other utilities. Phase shifting, at the same frequency is no biggie, but how to deal with frequency shift? Converting to DC and back to AC could work, very expensive.

    I still have a few clocks that use the 60Hz line for a reference, long term far better than any cheap quartz oscillator. Maybe I’ll have to ‘pipe’ the 10 MHz Rubidium standard all over the house after this. (right after I make the final tweaks on my perpetual motion machine.)

    Much adu about nothing.

  83. Robert of Ottawa
    Have you noticed any unexplained failures in the last few years? Does Ottawa get power from Hydro One, I assume it does so let me rephrase, does power get fed through from Hydro Quebec which isn’t as subject to the variances of wind and solar?

  84. A nice description of an experiment conducted in the Netherlands in 2005 (with some background):

    http://wwwhome.cs.utwente.nl/~ptdeboer/misc/mains.html

    More or less the same from the US, done in 2004:

    http://www.leapsecond.com/pages/mains/

    Real time mains frequency monitoring (UK):
    current: http://www.dynamicdemand.co.uk/grid.htm
    past 60 minutes: http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Data/Realtime/Frequency/Freq60.htm

    Also, look up the Dynamic Demand wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_demand_(electric_power)

    To measure mains frequency and analyse its statistical properties in real time you only need a small transformer, some pretty simple intermediate electronics and an NTP synchronized computer with appropriate software tools. I can’t believe there is no such equipment on the market.

    Anthony, you may consider looking up such a gadget and add it to the collection at your shop. With this current grid de-regulation I am sure there would be a lot of willing citizen scientists out there who would like to monitor what’s going on and some would even put their results online.

    Good software is of course paramount, but one can always start an open source project for that.

  85. There are aviation test sets that are calibrated at 60hz using light bulbs. Must have missed the NOTAM on this?

  86. Pure BS!

    I’ve been in a power plant while they run a “frequency drill”. Listen to the T&D department communicating with the plant. “Ah, we are down to 59.99 CPS (Hz, it was a LONG time ago!)…
    Still dropping, 59.97.. still dropping.. 59.95 at 59.92 they would KICK THE PLANT OFF LINE because of the “line losses” from the plant sub station to the GRID!

    Now the fact of the matter is the grid is held at 60.00+/- .02 HZ for GOOD REASON. Having nothing to do with the “convenience” of the consumers.

    File this under “Y2K deja vue”.

    Max

  87. Everyone is missing the point (some have got close).

    There are few ways of ensuring long term (>1 month) timing accuracy in the home.

    1. Counting grid cycles 60/50 Hz
    2. Internet time
    3. GPS time
    4. Broadcast time – Fort Collins WWVB on 60kHz etc

    All other methods of time keeping suffer from long term uncorrectable (except manually) drift.

    Your government wants to take away the simplest way of you achieving accurate very long term (> many years) timekeeping.

    Conspiracy theorists might think that this ‘experiment’ is way to drive you toward internet connected devices over which they may exert control remotely.

  88. If nobody is held to providing at a standard frequency then nobody is going to bother trying. Everyone is going to assume someone ‘else’ is setting the pace so I would expect the frequency to start ‘wandering’. I don’t think I’ll like hearing every synchronous motor in my house slightly varying in speed as every power company chases a frequency established by nobody.

  89. Sorry … but I think most people here are hyperventillating a bit excessively.

    One really cool thing that CAN be done with slowly time-varying frequencies is to encode “bits” into the phase stream. Nothing is thrown out of whack, as it has been done for years already (without the purpose of encoding bits). With modern crystal-controlled oscillators, one can easily detect phase shifts of 1 or 2 degrees within an otherwise normal 50/60Hz power signal. An encoding rate of 8 bits per second puts a spectrum widening signal on top of the base 50/60 Hz of about -20 dB … which is about the same as present non-intentional phase-and-amplitude shift. The total phase modulation is 3%, which is to say about 10 degrees out of 360. Now, 8 bits is of course one byte, so 1 byte (or character) per second dœsn’t sound like much. But it is a great way to transmit time synchronization master codes (UTC, of course), as well as emergency broadcasting information that is essentially guaranteed to get to all customers who are on grid. It also has the capacity to encode power-rate markers for residential and industrial customers up to once a minute, though more commonly once every 6 minutes (tenths of an hour). All known phase-synchronizing pieces of equipment that we at Cal Berkeley looked into didn’t even flicker in the least. All known transformer equipment is immune. All decent quality A/C-from-DC (as in wind/solar) generation inverters do just fine with the phase shifts. Even the pesky but ubiquitous computer-room “UPS” devices sync with no hitch to the 3% phase-encoded digital information. Lastly, the intentional coding of data into the phase is an excellent way for utilities themselves to alert down-wind municipalities of fast changing rate / load capacity information. The data is essentially real-time, just-in-time delivered. Oh yah — the 3% phase change torque patterns induced on the larger spinning generators amounts to exactly 3% modulation of the force on the shaft. Nothing to worry about there: they regularly have 10% fluctuations through the day as TIE lines are lagged in or cut out.

    I say it is a big NON story. The ridiculously under-reported benefits and piggy-back functionality of this makes it sound like irresponsible “playing” by the regulatory and power generation utilities. It is not. The huffy hubris is taking on the tenor of the Y2K unfiasco. Breathe slowly, [snip]. There really is nothing to see.

    G O A T G U Y

  90. GoatGuy says:
    June 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    If that’s what they want to do then they should draft a standard and propose it. We would then get the opportunity to discuss the topic sensibly rather than guessing the purpose and results of an ‘experiment’.

  91. Well, it’s certainly not an energy saving idea. The lower you go from 60 Hz, the greater the amperage draw. This is why 60 Hz motors run cooler than 50 Hz motors on their respective frequencies. A missed Hz isn’t going to destroy anything instantaneously but over the long haul shorten it’s life via extra heating breaking down insulation resistance over time. Someone can do the calcs on amperage draw, it will be significant.

  92. Jacking in from Bangkok, where frequent power black-out is still a fact of life and there is no point of setting the clock on the oven or DVD player because they are going to blink out again soon.

    Practically all cheap digital clock/ clock-radio use power line frequency as their timebase and an R/C network as a back-up if you actually splurged for one with battery back up function.
    Most plugged in mechanical clock/ clock-radio has synchronous motor which uses the line frequency to maintain it rotational speed then geared it down to drive the hands or flip digits.
    Ditto for all the plugged in wall timers.
    They will all be skewed up/down if the long term line frequency isn’t maintained.

    Counting the biannual DST clock monkeying ritual in the US, the worse case drift (based on their numbers) would then be no more than around 4 minutes between the rituals.
    Which is amply accurate for peon subject of the empire.

  93. I didn’t read all of the comment, but this is insane. I really hope this is a hoax or something. Anyone that has gone back and forth from the States to Europe will tell you it isn’t just about clocks. It will destroy all sorts of electronics.

    dscott says: @June 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm Correctly states, it won’t occur instantly, but depending upon how much it varies from 60 hz, will depend on how long the electronics lasts. It isn’t that one hz is better than another, but it is that our electronics are we designed for 60 hz. 50 or 70 won’t work well, and it won’t work long.

    @GoatGuy says: You are correct about piggybacking……it isn’t anything new, but, they regularly have 10% fluctuations through the day ………” ——— So, how much more fluctuations can we expect when we quit regulating it? It’s no big deal? Take your $1000 flat scree and send it to Germany and plug it in. Get back to me about how hertz don’t matter.

  94. I’m a bit stunned by the level of ignorance here. A couple of points:

    To all the people worried about frying electronics, you may not have heard, but a few years ago a clever engineer invented a thing called a switched mode power supply. It allows most (not all – high end audio gear comes to mind) electronic equipment to operate from a widely variable supply. You know, how you can take a laptop from 110V 60Hz in the US and plug it into a 230V 50Hz socket in Europe with only a plug adapter? If you can do that, then why on earth do you think a 1Hz variation in your domestic supply is going to make all your equipment explode?

    Secondly, most (again, not all, I know) ‘alternative’ energy sources like wind and solar have a thunking big bit of power electronics called a power converter to interface them to the grid. This takes whatever is generated by the windmill / solar panel and coverts it to the right voltage and frequency (whatever is appropriate locally). A windmill is in fact a much more stable source of power, in frequency terms, than coal, gas or nuclear plant, because there is no need at all to synchronise a physical rotation to the grid. Power quality is another matter, of course.

    Thirdly, as many have already pointed out, when you actually read about this it turns out this is the same variation that already happens; they just won’t make it zero-average any more.

    A little less hysteria, please.

  95. Wow, I am so impressed that apparently nobody ever has the power go out in their house or community? As for me, power goes out during big storms, in the summer when Brown-outs lead to total disruption, when someone hits a power pole driving home drunk from the local bar. It seems to me, the cyclical accuracy of the power line gets very inaccurate when it’s off completely. Besides Daylight Savings, I have to reset my clocks 3 or 4 times a year so I doubt I would ever see the cumulative effect of this proposed change.

    Aside from that I’m an Electronics Engineer and as many have commented, we have not used 60 Hz for our equipment clocks for a long time. that’s mostly because the internal microprocessors use a crystal of their own and we just divide that frequency to get our internal “Real Time” clocks.

    One place I am concerned with line frequency is when I design “Grid-Tie” inverters which link DC Solar panels to the utility’s power grid. Even then we never count on exactly 60 Hz because the power line frequency is so inaccurate in the short term. Rather we simply synchronize electronically with whatever frequency the utility company is providing.

    Now if you’re looking for an accurate clock, look to your GPS. The P-Code incorporated into the GPS signal is incredibly accurate … Even more so if you are the military and have access to the decryption key. However even for consumer GPS applications, it’s accuracy makes the 60Hz power line standard look like an hour glass in comparison.

    Just because something is “Old” does not mean it is accurate, efficient or the best way to do something.

    Life is a lot more fun when you stop feverishly searching for things to fear and be angry about.
    Embrace change … It’s the only constant.
    And buy a new clock for heaven’s sake, doesn’t the grinding of the 50 year old bearings in that one you have now keep you awake … or look at your Cell phone for the time :)

  96. Phil, re: the generator disappearing through the roof, I certainly can believe that. East Perth power station in, I think, the 50s or 60s, had something similar happen (though it might have been a balance issue rather than phase fault) and the generator apparently not only ripped itself up and bounced around within the building for a bit, but also then took off through the side of it and landed in the mud across the Swan river where it sank never to be found again.

    … or so our Electrical Engineer lecturers at Mt Lawley Tech used to tell us apprentices, and there didn’t seem to be any reason to disbelieve them.

    As for mucking around with the cycles, that might be a simpler way of a power provider remotely controlling high power consumer devices. Get the government to legislate cycle sensitive controllers on every airconditioner, and in the summer months when the load is high and power station not managing, they could drop the cycles slightly in order to cause every aircon hanging off them to drop out, thereby lessening the load.

    The eco-nazi green types would love that sort of thing. :-)

    regarDS

  97. Fixing the standard of weights and measures is actually one of the few enumerated powers of Congress in article I section 8 of the US Constitution. If you do not want an unelected bureaucrat relaxing such standards, contact your senators and representatives with your concerns. Even if timekeeping were the only problem, it can still be a nontrivial side effect.

  98. *****
    Frederick Michael says:
    June 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    There was an episode of the old Superman TV series where they did this to speed up the clocks in this guy’s impenetrable chamber. His plan was to stay in the chamber until the statute of limitations ran out on his crime. The fast clocks tricked him into emerging early and he was busted.

    Classic TV!
    ******

    My favorite line from that ancient episode was when the criminal was goading Superman on the telephone from his lead-lined chamber. Superman responded: “No comment until the time-limit is up”.

  99. Considering that this is a scienitific website it’s amazing how many commentators are showing their lack of scientific knowledge.

    Oh noes the world is going to end! The gov’ment are going to tax us even more. I’m going to go off grid till it’s all sorted out. What clutz.

    As some of the more knowledgeble people have said, it won’t stop the world. Power companies have vested interests to keep the 60Hz (or 50Hz in th EU) but a minor variation here and there (not .001% on every single cycle, more like .01% for a few minutes at a time) will now not be maintained. So a few antique clocks and devices running on synchornous motors (not VCRs) might loose half second a week or they might gain a half second a week. If anyone is using a synchronous motor for such accurate timing more fool them for not upgrading to some crytsal derived clock. And you probably loose more time from power cuts and brown outs than any change in frequency could every produce.

    As for frying electronics, anything that sensitive to such a small variation in frequency over a short period of time is asking to be replaced as it’s probably on it’s way out already. Switch mode power supplies (in the majority of electronic devices) ignore such issues.

    Jeez, some people.

  100. @Dennis L:

    Just because something is “Old” does not mean it is accurate, efficient or the best way to do something.
    ————-
    I take offense to that remark ;-)

  101. Has any of these idiots heard of impedence? Do they not know that reactance is dependent upon frequency?

    OK so most things will not be affected, but a few will. I know that on an aircraft the AC system shuts down if frequency drops by more than 5%, to avoid fire risk of impedence drop in motors and heating elements. What is going to be the allowable variation? OK most modern transformers can take 50 – 60 Hz, but what about older kit, what about motors?

  102. Dennis L says on June 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Now if you’re looking for an accurate clock, look to your GPS. The P-Code incorporated into the GPS signal is incredibly accurate …

    Not so fast there Dennis L, P code and C/A code are derived from the same 10.23 MHz time base references in the birds, making them ‘equally accurate’ … resolution (not to be confused with accuracy) temporally (time) and spatially (position) is enhanced using P-code in conjunction with L2 frequency (1227.6 MHz, which is 120 times the time base reference frequency of 10.23 MHz) in conjunction with L1 (1575.42 MHz, which is 154 times 10.23 MHz) by taking into account ionospheric anomalies …

    Full disclosure: I was with TI doing ‘factory support’ of HDUE (High Dynamic User Equipment) in the 1978 time frame when there were only a few ‘birds’ in orbit and the majority of testing was at the Yuma Proving Grounds using terrestrially-based ‘GPS’ transmitters …

    .

  103. Berényi Péter says on June 26, 2011 at 9:08 am


    To measure mains frequency and analyse its statistical properties in real time you only need a small transformer, some pretty simple intermediate electronics and an NTP synchronized computer with appropriate software tools. I can’t believe there is no such equipment on the market.

    There is; they are called
    Power Quality Meters (or monitors)
    .

    Something looks to have been thrown together using LabVIEW in this post, which was likely overlooked while reading other, shall I say, slightly over-the-top posts in this thread …

    .

  104. dscott says on June 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm:

    Well, it’s certainly not an energy saving idea. The lower you go from 60 Hz, the greater the amperage draw. This is why 60 Hz motors run cooler than 50 Hz motors on their respective frequencies. A missed Hz isn’t going to destroy anything instantaneously but over the long haul shorten it’s life via extra heating breaking down insulation resistance over time. Someone can do the calcs on amperage draw, it will be significant.

    Hmmm … ‘energy saving ideas’ …

    What about all those programmable thermostats installed in the last few decades?

    Sure, they have battery-backup (or ‘supercaps’ nowadays) for time keeping during mains power outages (they rely on a ‘crystal’, either an actual quartz crystal or more likely a ceramic resonator today) … but the long-term time keeping accuracy has been assured by continued ‘counting’ of AC mains line frequency – which system operators strive to maintain long-term ‘accuracy’.

    For example, the ERCOT system in Texas (in the recent past, like back in February of this year) worked to ‘make up for’ cycles that had been ‘lost’ due to excessive system loading (REAL rotary, spinning equipment in the system powered by steam or gas turbines) WILL slow down if the load on the system is heavy and the resources to cope with the load are not available as noted here:

    Here’s my data (my circuit was never cut as a part of the rolling blackouts so I was able to maintain ‘phase continuity’ with pre-blackout grid frequency) [and note the equivalent number of cycles lost as measured by a time difference]:

    18 secs lagging, Wed morning
    13 secs lagging, Thurs
    11 secs lagging, Fri
    1 sec lagging, Sat *Recovered all lost cycles from Wed. event*
    3 secs lagging, Sun Slipped a little overnight, seen to recover during the day.

    .

  105. James Sexton says on June 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I didn’t read all of the comment, but this is insane. I really hope this is a hoax or something. Anyone that has gone back and forth from the States to Europe will tell you it isn’t just about clocks. It will destroy all sorts of electronics.

    I could not find anything in the ‘press’ on this story save a mention in the Seattle Times … nor anything in the trade press or any white papers or references on the FERC website two days ago while doing searches for over an hour of web and news sites …

    .

  106. At some point the aqueducts started to break down. Later the water stopped flowing outright. People throughout Western Europe reverted to wells, surface streams or whatever. Yeahhhhhh … the 5th Century, that’s the ticket!

  107. I don’t have time to go back and look right now, but isn’t there a plan to move from true alternating current to pulsating current. Instead of AC switching poles 60x per second, the electricity will be sent out in 60 pulses per second. Read an article on that a couple of years ago. Sound familiar to anyone? Could this be tied to that?

  108. Based on the comments above this has zero impact on anything and is not some green environmentalist scheme to fry electronics device to stimulate the economy. Let’s move on.

  109. Ok folks, here is my take..

    If you wish to continue being Americans, and I suspect many of you do not care anymore, wake up, and more importantly, act up. Our country is being destroyed by insane government/corporate decisions. The talking should be done, as anyone with two cells left in their head can see the direction, that talk has got us. We must act, for the sake of our country, our children, and our Constitution. You all remember what that is right? Sitting behind our computers talking about this is right where they want us, controlled. Act you slugs, damn you, act. A decision to not represent us has been made, and its implementation is apparent, so why are we still talking. Personally I would rather die standing for something, than to stand for nothing. If you ever realize that we all feel the same, watching this happen, and will help each other to destroy those who seek to do the snake to us, we would have a revolution going on. You say making the same mistake twice, and expecting different results is insanity, but what is this forum posting but a platform to air you complaints, while refusing to act. I suspect it’s a why partially it was created, as I see other people of the world with much more intestinal fortitude, than most Americans. Today is the day I go offline for good, no more talk, its all that’s being done. It’s time for action, as to wait means to accept slavery, and as a Marine I cannot. I am mad as hell, and not taking it anymore…please join the revolution, and reclaim your humanity, for your children’s sake, I hope to see you there. Semper Fi…..

  110. Richard, as others pointed out the grid can go down to 57Hz before major equipment malfunction which is why it trips out at about 58Hz. This is about a 3% change. Obviously the utility company won’t be going outside of the 3% range, not unless they feel like purchasing new generators. In addition the article stated that a clock could be off by 20 minutes in a day (one of the few facts in this article) which implies an average of 59.17Hz assuming that the aforementioned clock is running slow.

    The end point of discussion here is whether or not major equipment and/or consumer-owned devices will be affected. As other people have pointed out, frequency variations already happen, especially under heavy load. In the past it was a requirement to make up the lost cycles (or to lose some cycles, depending on whether you were under- or over-frequency). You’ve never noticed it before, have you? Because frequency changes do happen on the grid, engineers designing things which draw power from it must take this into account, hence the reason your vacuum cleaner has never blown up.

    For the dude who was freaking out about VFDs, you can calm down now. VFDs are frequency independent as they use a PWM circuit to create the power which is actually provided to the drive itself. At worst a lower frequency would mean that some extra noise gets past the filters. The input power gets changed to DC (a frequency of zero) then the PWM circuit creates whatever is needed to push the drive. For a full explanation of why the input frequency matters very little for a VFD, try Googling “how does a variable frequency drive work” and looking at the first website that pops up, the second page has a circuit schematic which shows the rectifier and the power transistors in the inverter.

    Oh, and to the one guy who did the typical foaming-at-the-mouth rant about how the world is going to end – my guess is that the PID controller you are referring to is actually a microcontroller which is programmed with the parameters of the PID. Microcontrollers have their own crystal clock which is powered using DC, in other words, they will be one of the few things which is wholly unaffected by this change.

    I find this article to be an interesting study in group behavior, particularly in the realm of mass hysteria inadvertently caused by the media. With a better written article most of the discussion here would not need to have taken place. For the people in the know about the grid, this article fails to provide some specific info which would assuage our fears; in the case of the average person who is concerned about the power quality they receive, the two sides of the argument are presented but no conclusion is ever reached. The reporter gave a bunch of opinions from each side without any hard facts or strong statements, allowing the person reading the article to believe what they like (providing an unbiased view is usually good journalism) but leaving the reader without the information required for the them to form their own opinion and causing the typical person to panic due to the uncertainty of the situation. Only people already in the know have any chance to escape the feeling of potentially being screwed by this change, and they have been the only voices of reason in these posts.

    [snip]

  111. Hi, not my field but this may be worth reading:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_demand_(electric_power)

    This concept requires frequency variation to shed demand by using just the mismatch between the supply and an internal clock as a signalling system. There are some big users i.e. UK steel plants that are quite happy to loose the odd GW for short periods which they can cover with backup generation if they get paid enough for the privilege.

    It could be mandated in certain types of doemstic equipment, fridges/freezers come to mind as it does not need either a smart grid nor a smart meter.

    Alex

  112. I am amazed at the number of “so-called” EE’s here that obviously couldn’t find their asses with both hands. It’s truly scary!! Thankfully there are a few clear heads. This is such a non-issue that it should never have been reported as news.
    What part of “minor fluctuations in cumulative cycles” don’t you get? Obviously, with the kind of investment that power companies have made in their equipment, they are not going to simply let the grid frequency wonder willynilly where ever it wants to go (virtually impossible anyway what with every generator already interconnected.).
    As for the ‘expert’ who was expounding at great length regarding the detrimental effects of grid frequency variation on the health of VFDs. WTF?
    VFDs by design are not grid frequency dependent. The converter section (rectifier) couldn’t give a shit about minor fluctuations in grid frequency. Its job is to make DC, period! Decoupling a motor from the grid and its fixed AC frequency by interposing a VFD, (which converts grid AC to DC then, through its Variable Frequency inverter section, back to AC) means the motor can be commanded to run at whatever desired speed is within its operating parameters (including zero speed at full load!).

  113. I recall a major blackout event in South Florida, 1972 if memory serves. I was making my 20 mile commute home from PBJC, and all the traffic lights were out. Annoying. I don’t recall the exact extent, but Dade and Palm Beach counties were affected and some further north, I think. Anyway, the cause was a frequency sensing device that got out of calibration and kicked a plant off line when it thought the frequency was too far out of alignment to the grid. This overloaded another plant, and the cascade started. Messing with line frequency can be bad…

  114. So now my microwave will burn the food as the timer will be wrong. : ) Should I put in 31 seconds now instead of 30? Food waste.

  115. Burch, that was likely due to a bad sensor in the recloser (or substation meter, whichever protection device kicked off the event). It mistakenly thought it was protecting the equipment. Had the sensor been good, the protection circuitry would not have even blinked at the behavior being proposed here.

  116. Tom says:
    June 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    A windmill is in fact a much more stable source of power, in frequency terms, than coal, gas or nuclear plant, because there is no need at all to synchronise a physical rotation to the grid. Power quality is another matter, of course.

    Bzzzzt!

    ‘Rotary generation fail'; it will be the ‘equivalent torque’ from that ‘static inverter’ applied to the grid which will be the problem – the system frequency will (attempt to) SPEED UP when wide-spread winds hits the field of windmills and SLOW DOWN when that same wind winds back down … somewhere, many steam-powered turbines (or many nat gas peakers) will be (attempting) to counter those wild swings via individual governor (AGC) action as described by others in this thread and as directed regionally by ACE (Area Control Error) calculations by the regional ISOs – Independent System Operator(s) …

    Refs:
    Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: What to Do When Wind Doesn’t Perform as Promised

    Area Control Error The area control error (ACE) of a system or an interconnected group of systems is the resultant error in area interchange compared to the desired or scheduled interchange

    CERTS ACE-Frequency Real-Time Monitoring System

    Reliability Coordinators throughout the nation are now using a new real-time monitoring tool developed by CERTS for the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). The CERTS Area Control Error (ACE) Frequency Real-Time Monitoring System allows Reliability Coordinators to monitor compliance with NERC rules designed to ensure the reliable supply of electricity.

    Until this tool was introduced, months of data analysis were required to determine the causes of rule violations that threatened reliability, so corrective action was not possible until it was too late. Now, however, the ACE Frequency Real-Time Monitoring System immediately alerts Reliability Coordinators to conditions that threaten reliability so that there is time to work with out-of-compliance control areas to correct impending problems in real time, reducing the chances of unplanned blackouts.

    The ACE tool uses data visualization techniques to assess compliance with NERC reliability rules for the 143 control areas in North America. The tool relies on data generated every four seconds by all control areas and creates a real-time visual display of the entire power grid. This display immediately alerts NERC Reliability Coordinators to emerging frequency abnormalities within an interconnection and can pinpoint the control areas causing the violations. Armed with this information, coordinators can initiate corrective actions within minutes to prevent further degradation of system reliability.

    .

  117. Watching TV with black bars crawling vertically through the picture; happens when frequency is
    the same but the phase is not, due to no synchronization of 60 hertz.

  118. checked with our vfd guru – yes indeed as noted above all modern vfd are ac-dc-pwm devices so no problem.

    However there may be a problem with the many direct drive ac motors running myriads of conveyor belt systems. And since most of those as indeed synchronous motors; then they will be affected by changes of mains frequency. And since not all conveyors in the same system have the same gearing; then resultant changes in conveyor (and screw) speeds will be different – whether it will mater may be found out the hard way – it all depends on by how much the mains frequency is allowed to wander; and over what period it is to be bought back to nominal value.

    To the bloke who (correctly) pointed out that PID are run from PLC runing their own clocks – yes – but you missed the point – it was not the PLC instability but the instability of the controlled process variable (PV) – ask your self what happens when you fail to schedule your PID to run at constant repetition rate – yup; the tuning goes haywire : messing with the PV frequency is messing with the time domain in a similar way. Again it depends on a multiple of variables on whether it matters; but since I trouble shoot PID tuning as part of what I do; trust me; the number of unstable loops due to a mS change in program execution times is not insignificant – to the extent that it’s one of the 1st things we [we not just me] insist on being checked; and if the PID is not in a periodic task – well don’t call us until it is.

    So as I said – what is needed is some absolute statements about what exactly (engineering usage) they intend to allow. With the feed back to your regulators that there is POTENTIAL for unintended consequences; some of which may be bad.
    And if we can spend billions of billions of $ ‘just in case’ AGW will happen; then we should expect ah equal application of the precautionary principle before messing with something as basic and widespread as grid frequency.

  119. peter_dtm says on June 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm


    However there may be a problem with the many direct drive ac motors running myriads of conveyor belt systems. And since most of those as indeed synchronous motors; then they will be affected by changes of mains frequency. And since not all conveyors in the same system have the same gearing; then resultant changes in conveyor (and screw) speeds will be different – whether it will mater may be found out the hard way

    How so?

    You’re getting those kinds of variations NOW over an 8 to 10 hour period, it’s just that, as proposed, the frequency will not be run back UP and over 60 Hz for any length of time to compensate for the low number of cycles accrued that day (maintaining an average of 60 Hz over a 24 hr period). Actually, here in Texas we witnessed a case where the ERCOT supervised grid made up for lost cycles (suffered during a severe demand/rolling blackout event one morning) over a three or four day period following back in February (18 some seconds worth of cycles)!

    So, I don’t see an issue.

    If you’re taking frequency excursions now without issue, what WILL the issue be?

    A reduction in X numbers of widgets rolling off the production line in a 24 hour period since the average AC Mains frequency (over that 24 Hr time period) will in-the-future work out to an average of 59.95 Hz (cycles/second) instead of 60 Hz?

    .

  120. It may in fact be an experiment to see how 3 phase power transmission [ normal transmission] reacts to a solar storm or other exceptional event and may thus be an attempt to view the weaknesses in the system/s and thus attempt to make repairs/modifications to ‘harden’ the system/s. After all we wouldn’t expect a major solar flare or emp to act with delicate syncronosity across a 3 phases of a high tension transmission line.
    Just a possible logical pathway especially after seeing that NASA is conserned about major solar erruptions in 2012. Not that I believe there will be solar storms any worse in 2012 , as we seem to be in a solar minimum and we may have average solar storms at that peak time.
    But the point is that that seems to be what they are thinking and the policy is driven by such thinking .
    Or maybe not.

  121. The start of the Stealth Kill Switch for internet shut down? Or is it to mask anomolies brought on by the approach of Planet X? Like global warming is? Under Club of Rome, NWO biggest goal was the de-industrialization of modern man, esp nuclear power (reserved for TPTB alone). No AC during hot summer months could also be a big population reducer like in France where it took out close to 100,000 elderly- as planned.

  122. people in the 20 century ie. the 1900’s lived in sweltering cities ,,,they lived,they thrived they had big families,,,,,do not confuse modern luxeries with survival,,,,for there are millions that live that way

  123. More “Change” under O’Bummer. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! If you vote for him again, do you think it will get bettter? Yeah, right.

  124. I love watts up with that,,,,but sometimes there are times when a thread is just a thread,,,sometimes a thread leads to the opposite end whereby the thread shows that there are some few in government that are still doing their jobs. No one is more surprized than me to see that that is the case. I am surethat is why that is since I know many people sincerely employed with
    government.

    Even so the role of WATTS UP WITH THAT is paramont,,it has done incredible good as it has exposed the lies but care should be taken not to weild the brush too broadly.

    I believe that we are entering into a time of global cooling ,,how this will work out ,,no one knows,,,
    Watts up with that must appear impartial and scientific ,,,,as it is

    Do not repeat the mistakes of the global warming croud in reverse,,,do not try to show a vast conspericy,,,but simply show the truth as you have been doing

  125. Looks like George W. Bush has been playing w___ _______ again and someone has been inspired to apply the result to the powergrid integrity

  126. All your plug in clocks, coffeemakers with timers, VCRs, microwave ovens will now slowly lose the time.

  127. Sounds to me like they plan on it causing a few major hiccups. They will then have the excuse to convince people we need to spend billions to upgrade to the “Smart” electrical grid Obama has been saying we need.

  128. The two or three EEs who know what is going on are correct. This is no big deal. I assure you there will be no harm caused to any of your equipment. The only side effect will be that some clocks will run slightly fast. And any clock that is powered by the grid will lose power on occasion, and need to be set anyway. Still, it is an inconvenience. I really like it when the old 1950’s GE clock in my garage keeps time as accurately as the atomic radio clocks.

    But the question remains: Why not true up the grid over the long haul? And why would the East coast gain 20 minutes, while the West coast gains 8? I guarantee you it is not hard to do and doesn’t cost any more money.

    You see, if there is a sudden load on the grid, the local voltage will drop and current will flow towards the load. Until more fuel is supplied to the generators, they will come up with the extra energy by slowing down slightly. The short term energy comes from their rotational inertia. Likewise, when load is suddenly removed, the generators will speed up slightly until their fuel supply is cut. The whole purpose of the grid control system is to direct the current from the supply to the load, and always maintain a balance. The act of doing this automatically controls the frequency.

    There is a lot of inertia on the grid, in motors and generators, and in the resonance of all the capacitors on the power poles balancing out the mostly inductive loads, such as fluorescent lights. Just imagine every motor and generator on the grid hooked together like one giant flywheel. Very small changes in frequency can yield very large amounts of temporary power.

    In fact, the giant chain reaction blackouts like we see on the East coast occur as various parts of the grid fight each other and try to maintain the frequency and power balance. If one leg is slightly ahead of time (it wants the grid to speed up) and another leg is lagging, huge currents will flow between them. When large instabilities occur, power sloshes around the grid uncontrollably, fuses blow and the grid collapses.

    One important part of the new Smart Grid is new sensors that monitor the instantaneous phases and power flows much more precisely than in the past. With this fine tuning, the existing grid can handle much more power than before. In the past, the grid had to be overbuilt to provide a safety margin for instabilities. With the new sensors and control technology, the grid can be controlled much more accurately than ever before.

    There is only one reason I can think of to speed up the long term average frequency of a grid, and that is to transfer power to another grid through an induction motor/generator. As the frequencies of the two grids slip in relation to each other, power would be transferred from the high frequency grid to the low frequency grid. Then, gears or fluidic torque converters would not be required to generate the slip frequency mechanically. But why would the US grids all gain time? Maybe they are stealing power and transferring it to other disconnected 60 Hz grids.

    Or, maybe it’s just a government initiative to reduce tardiness.

    I’m beginning to smell a great big commie rat!

  129. It’s a matter for honest science and experts, not speculation. The question I await is the stability of a less regulated grid. And I suspect that’s what the experiment is designed to explore. The grid is, essentially, a network of oscillators and tank circuits – and nobody know how it really works because it’s too complex.

  130. We have 50Hz here in Europe (at least in Sweden), remember my time trying to play a 60Hz game on our 50Hz TV back in the 90´ies… didn´t work at all. Do NOT expect the massmedia to tell you about all the thing that went wrong after this experiment. Sure am glad to not live in the US of A!

  131. Yesterday, in Texas, we lost three different sources of ‘generation’ (ERCOT was not specific in their dispatch as to exactly where/what was lost*) during an early summer ‘heat wave’ that has enveloped us with the following affects to the ERCOT supervised Grid system in Texas in terms of the frequency ‘dip':

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Jun 28 2011 06:55:56 CST

    On 6/27/11, a sudden loss of generation occurred:

    1)
    at 12:54 totaling 660 MW.
    Frequency dipped to 59.820 Hz,
    ERCOT load was 57,004 MW.

    2)
    At 13:07, a sudden loss of generation totaling 638 MW occurred.
    Frequency dipped to 59.887 Hz,
    ERCOT load was 57,563 MW.

    3)
    At 14:38, a sudden loss of generation totaling 512 MW occurred.
    Frequency dipped to 59.878 Hz,
    ERCOT load was 60,767 MW.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Peak ERCOT load yesterday was 62762.04 MW as reported for the 1700 reading.

    * Per: http://www.ercot.com/services/comm/mkt_notices/opsmessages/index

    .

  132. ee-dave says on June 27, 2011 at 11:42 pm


    One important part of the new Smart Grid is new sensors that monitor the instantaneous phases and power flows much more precisely than in the past. With this fine tuning, the existing grid can handle much more power than before. In the past, the grid had to be overbuilt to provide a safety margin for instabilities. With the new sensors and control technology, the grid can be controlled much more accurately than ever before.

    See the “CERTS ACE-Frequency Real-Time Monitoring System” as referenced in this post.

    Reliability Coordinators throughout the nation are now using a new real-time monitoring tool developed by CERTS for the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). The CERTS Area Control Error (ACE) Frequency Real-Time Monitoring System allows Reliability Coordinators to monitor compliance with NERC rules designed to ensure the reliable supply of electricity.

    … the ACE Frequency Real-Time Monitoring System immediately alerts Reliability Coordinators to conditions that threaten reliability so that there is time to work with out-of-compliance control areas to correct impending problems in real time, reducing the chances of unplanned blackouts.

    The ACE tool uses data visualization techniques to assess compliance with NERC reliability rules for the 143 control areas in North America. The tool relies on data generated every four seconds by all control areas and creates a real-time visual display of the entire power grid.

    The ‘smart grid’ is targeted to (at?) consumers and addresses the ‘demand side’ of the power equation (don’t let the sales department over-sell the capabilities purpose of ‘the smart grid'; there systems in place to watch ‘power flows’ into and out of and across power systems today).

    An example of a ISO’s (Independent System Operator’s) facilities to monitor the ‘big’ parts of the grid (part of the ‘supply side’) –

    – excerpted from:
    Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator
    Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) Reliability Plan

    MISO RC (Reliability) utilizes a state estimator and real-time contingency as a primary tool to monitor facilities.

    The state estimator model includes all facilities 100 kV and above in MISO Reliability Coordination Area and extensive representation of 69 kV facilities.

    The model also has extensive representation of neighboring facilities in order to provide an effective wide-area view.

    MISO State Estimator Model currently includes 31,000 buses and 150,000 ICCP points. This model is updated quarterly and may be updated on demand when deemed necessary.

    Real Time Contingency Analysis (RTCA) is performed on over 7,500 contingencies utilizing the state estimator model normally at least every five minutes. Contingencies include all MISO Reliability Coordination Area equipment 100 kV and above and neighboring contingencies that would impact MISO Reliability Coordination Area facilities.

    In addition to the above applications, MISO utilizes a dynamically updated transmission overview display to maintain a wide area view. Transmission facilities 230 kV and above are depicted on the overview with flows (MW and MVAR). This display provides indication of facilities out of service, high and low voltage warning and alarming, and facilities loaded to 90% and 100% of ratings. For more detailed monitoring, dynamically updated Balancing Area wide displays are used to view facilities 100 kV and above, including flows (MW and MVAR), voltages, generator outputs, and facilities out of service. Finally, bus level one-line diagrams are utilized for station level information.

    .

  133. Gunner Jensen says:
    June 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    “Watching TV with black bars crawling vertically through the picture; happens when frequency is the same but the phase is not, due to no synchronization of 60 hertz.”

    I used to fix TVs for a living. The above is misleading. The NTSC video signal has a vertical sync pulse which is nominally 60hz but it’s completely unrelated to AC line frequency. If the entire frame is rolling vertically the black bar is the vertical sync interval which is normally hidden while the electron beam in the cathode ray tube that lights up phosphors on the screen moves from the bottom of the picture tube face back to the top. This condition indicates you have a problem in the vertical sync detection circuitry.

    If the frame itself is not rolling but you have some kind of distortion rolling vertically through the picture that’s indicative of a bad power supply low frequency filter capacitor. That’s probably the most common problem in AC power supplies as those filter caps are typically large electrolytic capacitors operating in a hot environment. The liquid electrolytic either leaks out or dries out over time with characteristic result of a 60hz signal appearing on the power supply’s DC output. Since the NTSC sync pulse and AC line frequency are both very close to 60hz but otherwise unrelated the result is an interference pattern rolling vertically through the picture frame where the roll rate is determined by how much the NTSC vertical sync pulse and line frequency differ. In audio systems the same filter cap failure results in a notorious 60hz “hum”.

  134. Dave Springer says:
    June 29, 2011 at 7:17 am
    xyz

    [Y? RU? Robt]

    For some reason WordPress lost my name/email and I had to type it in again. I made a typo in my name when I reentered it (see previous post). I corrected the typo but in order to make it stick I had to post another comment. At a loss for words (hard to believe, innit?) I just entered xyz and hit the post button. :-)

  135. Perdavid Nygren says:
    June 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    “We have 50Hz here in Europe (at least in Sweden), remember my time trying to play a 60Hz game on our 50Hz TV back in the 90´ies… didn´t work at all. Do NOT expect the massmedia to tell you about all the thing that went wrong after this experiment. Sure am glad to not live in the US of A!”

    For short while in the very early 1980’s I was writing console video games for a living, primarily for the Atari 2600. On that platform the programmer was responsible for vertical sync timing. We had a hardware interrupt that occured at the end of every horizontal line. We had to count the number of lines in software and intiate vertical synchronization at the proper time.

    The horizontal sync interrupt was generated by hardware counter counting out a number of ticks from a crystal oscillator. The oscillator was running at 14.318mhz which happens to be 4x the color burst frequency for NTSC (60hz vertical) and 3x the color burst frequency for PAL. The microprocessor was running at 1/3 the color burst frequency. PAL (50hz vertical) uses a different color burst frequency at 4.43mhz althought the horizontal sync rate is very nearly identical for both NTSC and PAL video at 15.7khz and 15.7khz respectively. So on the Atrari 2600 we could have generated the proper timing for horizontal and vertical synchronization but the color burst frequency would have been way off the mark unless the counter was reprogrammable from 4x for NTSC to 3x for PAL. The counter must have been reprogrammable as I know there were PAL-compatible cartridges for the 2600 VCS but as far as know the shop I worked for didn’t do any PAL versions of any of our games.

  136. What’s with all the blaming the government? Its not being mandated, its being allowed (less regulation). What gets me is the same poster who blames Fed gov for this typically goes on to rant about the need for less governement or such. Really, get a story and stick with it.

  137. I have an electrical engineering degree, and this changes involve LESS variance of the power frequency. Years ago, when one power plant supplied one town, and electric clocks had mechanical motors, it made sense to speed up the power grid frequency to make the clocks run fast for a day or two to catch up to the duration of the power outage. But even that caused problems — if you just reset the clock when the power came back on, the power company’s efforts made THOSE clocks wrong — they would be FAST by the amount of the correction. These periods of non-standard power frequency make it extremely difficult to merge into a regional power grid operating at normal frequency.
    And anyway, today’s clocks with digital displays use quartz movments and most analog clocks use a battery movement – both unaffected by power grid frequency.

  138. I was worried about frequency variation too, i thought they were going south america style and letting it run at some vague 48-60hz or whatever. But, if you RTFA (well, don’t, it’s uniformative. But read a *different* article) and they are said the variation would be about 20 minutes a year on the east coast (although they incorrectly said a clock would be fast rather than slow) and 8 minutes on the west. that would mean running at 59.9977hz. (Or, as a few commenters have said, not running at slightly *over* 60hz overnight to make up for times during the day when the cycles *already* are a little slow.)

  139. Frank Provasek says on July 1, 2011 at 3:12 am

    I have an electrical engineering degree, and this changes involve LESS variance of the power frequency. Years ago, when one power plant supplied one town, and electric clocks had mechanical motors, it made sense to speed up the power grid frequency to make the clocks run fast for a day or two to catch up to the duration of the power outage. But even that caused problems — if you just reset the clock when the power came back on, the power company’s efforts made THOSE clocks wrong — they would be FAST by the amount of the correction.

    THANKFULLY this phenomenon has at last been explained!

    /mild sarc

    The phenom continues to this day having raised it’s ugly head back in February of this year when we saw rolling blackouts throughout the state to forceably ‘shed load’ after significant amounts of generation were lost due to the effects of cold on systems:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/25/it-hertz-when-you-do-that-power-grid-to-stop-regulating-60-hz-frequency/#comment-689996

    Clocks reset just after the rolling blackouts would show a gain of about 18 seconds in the above case …

    .

  140. In television, BC (Before Color) the scanning frequency was tied directly to the AC line frequency. It was accurate enough and only simple circuitry was required to use it as a clock signal. But when NTSC added color the scanning rate was reduced to 29.976 frames per second (59.952 fields per second). Part of that was to make room in the signal bandwidth for the chroma information and part was to reduce interference like rolling distortions when the line frequency was too far off 60Hz.

    That change required all color NTSC TVs to have a built in clock signal generator, which the technology had advanced enough to make compact and affordable enough to mass produce, even with vacuum tubes.

    Since the start of the microchip era, all the stuff formerly done by a cabinet full of hot vacuum tubes got condensed to several dozen, then a few and now one or two chips. But before that it was discrete transistors and Heathkit sold televisions in build it yourself chunks, and before that it was DIY tube televisions. It would be neat to find a complete unbuilt one of those TV kits, then build it. (Of course then it’d need a digital tuner box in order to watch OTA broadcast.)

  141. The thought of allowing the national power frequency to be free floating is ridiculous. Why do we have tthe national clock at the National Bureau of Standards if not to maintain a true standard? Even if we disreegard the (electric) clock problem there is the real problem of opening and closing grid interconnects. An off phase connect can default into a complete collapse of both grids; the nightmare of all power generators. Any phase shift by pushing the phase of a power generator causes that generator to pick up the load on the line and try to push all other on line generator to become unloaded. Obviously this is a hare-brained attempt to justify more political interference that MUST remain the domain of the consenting power producers, not the Bureacrats.The IEEE ans NEMA have many years in solution of the integration of interconnected power, let them alone! No Czar in Washington should have any interference in the national system!

  142. Larryn11 is a real tool, blaming Obama’s “czars” for this change. He must have not even read the article, because the change is proposed by The North American Electric Reliability Corp, NERC is a non-government organization (as in free-market) that runs the nation’s interlocking web of transmission lines and power plants.

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