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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Latitude

Well…………..here comes the crank down to unreliable wind and solar

This is great. Now I have the perfect excuse for being late to work.

rbateman

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.

bob sykes

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?

JimK

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?

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

Kasuha

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.

Cris

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!

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.
.

Claude Harvey

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

Stephan

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.

WTF

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!

Bill H

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…

temp

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”.

SABR Matt

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

WTF

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.

pat

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

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!

ShrNfr

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.

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) …
.

John Whitman

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

WTF

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.

son of mulder

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 ;>)

Curt

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.

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!
.

Bill H

“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…

charles nelson

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.

Bill H

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?

Claude Harvey,
Thank you for explaining what is going on.
It is impossible to find such a clear thinking in newspapers or on TV.

Tom_R

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.

nobody in particular

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?

Karl Maki

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!

vboring

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.

Philip Peake (aka PJP)

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.

Chris Smith

What is the reason to not maintain 60Hz? Does it cost money to do that?

Curiousgeorge

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.

Tom

Quite the dimmest gummint “idea” I’ve come across in a while.

rbateman

Welcome to “Brown Energy”.

Tom

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 ?

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

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.

Curt

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.

Curiousgeorge

@ 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.

Wayne Delbeke

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.

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.

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.

dtbronzich

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.

Joe Ryan

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.

Bill H

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…

Tom_R

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).