A simple Solution for Y2K.

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The biggest problem is that the electricity might go out. This can happen because in the powerplants measurements are being made at various locations and times, and they are compared with preceding measurements to determine the increases. The time increments are always plus, except when 2000 comes, then suddenly a time increment, which normally would be 1sec, could come out to be be -100 years, which leads to nonsense decisions. So now assuming, that the time increments they are needing for all those calculations and decisions are of the order of a few seconds, the solution would be to switch off the whole powerplant one minute before the century and to leave it off for about 5 minutes, and then to switch it on, again.

-- Obin (Obin@fla.net), January 01, 1999


Oblin: you're obviously new at this. For a perspective on the problem, here is what the power companies themseves have to say:

Will problems with the electric utilitys computers cause massive blackouts on New Years Day, 2000, or will life go on with only minor annoyances? The "Y2K" problem  the "millennium bug"  is getting greater attention from the public, government, and private industry as we approach the end of 1999. The electric utility industry in Texas is no exception. This report provides a short description of how Y2K problems could impact the electric utility business and describes what actions the Public Utility Commission and other government agencies are taking to address Y2K issues. Date-sensitive software and hardware could malfunction when January 1, 2000, arrives because many computer programs and microchips use only two digits to represent the year in dates. When we get to years beyond 1999, many older programs may assume you mean 1900 or 1901 instead of 2000 or 2001. This could play havoc with all sorts of computations. Industries that rely extensively on automated equipment have even greater concerns because of their "embedded systems". Embedded systems are devices that contain a computer chip as an integral part of the system and are used to control, monitor or assist the operation of equipment, machinery or plant. For example, many temperature sensors, flow monitors, circuit breakers, etc. may contain chips that could be affected by date. The challenge of the embedded systems is their sheer number. Some of the larger electric utilities in Texas have more than 10,000 of these devices within their system. Electric utilities which rely on a large number of computers and embedded systems, are particularly vulnerable to the Y2K problem. Even if a utility tracks down and replaces every bit of equipment and corrects every line of software code which presents a Y2K problem, it still must face: Fuel suppliers which depend on computers for mining or drilling, extraction, refinery, transportation, marketing, and delivery. Banks which may falter, or be unable to transfer or receive funds, or whose bookkeepers may not know what their balances and obligations are. Equipment suppliers and third-party vendors who cannot deliver on time. Regardless of location, ownership or size, all electric utility systems are made up of three basic components: Generation facilities for producing electricity Transmission facilities for transporting electricity from the production plant to the load centers Distribution systems that deliver the electricity to the consumer. Generation Facilities Most of the electricity produced in Texas is generated by burning natural gas or coal in a large vessel called a boiler; a large box-like structure made of tubes filled with water. The water leaves the boiler as superheated steam and enters a steam turbine at about 1000:F. There it pushes against turbine blades that turn the shaft of a generator to create electricity. After it passes through the turbine, the steam condenses and recirculates to the boiler in a closed loop for reheating. A nuclear power plant works in the same manner as a fossil-fueled plant. Instead of burning fossil fuel, the fission of the nuclear fuel produces heat to make the steam used by the turbine. Anyone who has visited a modern power plant is impressed by how few people it takes to run one. The plants are highly automated and controlled from a central control room. In addition to the computers in the control room, there are hundreds of measuring and monitoring devices throughout the plant which contain embedded systems. Identifying, testing and remediating all of these systems will be a difficult and time consuming process. Often, testing for Y2K problems cannot be done safely while the plant is operating. Nuclear plants are shut down as seldom as possible, usually only every 18 months for refueling. Therefore some nuclear plants will not be shut down and available for testing until late 1999, which leaves little time for correcting potential Y2K problems. The electric system is run so that at any given time, there is at least 15% more generating capacity on line than is needed to supply the load. This reserve capacity can instantly respond to increases in load or loss of any power plant. There is even more capacity, in the form of plants that are not used that could be put on-line in a relatively short time. The loss of a plant, or even a couple of plants, is unlikely to result in any problems the customers would notice. Transmission After the power is generated, the voltage is increased by a large transformer at the power plant and begins its journey to the consumer via the transmission system. Transmission lines are generally the highest voltage lines used on a given system. The purpose of transmission lines is to move bulk power long distances from the power plant to the load center. Transmission lines tie together the generating stations and primary substations where the voltage is reduced to a lower level, which is usable by more customers. The transmission network permits the delivery of power within regions during normal conditions, and the transfer of power between regions during emergencies A major disadvantage to interconnection of transmission systems is that problems on one system can ripple through and impact other transmission systems. Since large quantities of electricity cannot be stored, and supply must always instantaneously meet demand, a high degree of coordination is required. This coordination is often accomplished with SCADA equipment. (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition). Supervisory control permits an operator at a central location to operate devices remotely and monitor the results. A SCADA system also automatically collects data from substations and generating stations. This data may include line loads, voltage, transformer power levels, breaker status and other information relating to the safe operation of equipment at substations, switching yards and other locations. This data can be stored in the computer to provide complete logs of the operation and status of the system. These logs can then be used by engineers to evaluate the performance of the system. The transmission system is the key to the operation of any electric utility. Without a reliable transmission system, it wont matter whether all the power plants are operating. All the major blackouts in Texas have been caused by problems with transmission lines, not problems with the plants. Distribution Transmission lines terminate at substations where the voltage is reduced and transported to the consumer by a network of distribution lines. Substations are the gateway for the transfer of power from generator to consumer. The main function of each local substation is to reduce the voltage, by the use of transformers, to a level appropriate for local distribution and to send the energy to the consumer. The lines carrying electricity at the lower voltages are called primary distribution lines, and they extend throughout the area in which electricity is to be distributed. This voltage is still too high for use in the home or factory, so its is reduced again by a line transformer or distribution transformer. The distribution transformer changes the voltage from the primary distribution voltage (this voltage may vary from company to company) to the secondary distribution voltage, which for use in the home is usually 120 or 240 volts. The lines that run to the customers premises are called service wires or secondary distribution lines. The combination of all the primary distribution lines, distribution transformers, secondary distribution lines, and services is called the distribution system. The distribution substations and primary distribution lines are often connected to SCADA systems, so these systems share the same vulnerabilities as the transmission system. Fortunately, problems with distribution SCADA systems would probably only impact the customers "downstream" from the substations, and outages would probably be limited to a small area. Electric utilities also use large main frame computers to handle their billing, accounting and personnel records. Problems with these computers could result in billing errors to the customers. . . . Link:

Texas power co. y2k statement

-- a (a@a.a), January 01, 1999.


As you've noticed, negative time intervals can lead to "nonsense decisions". For info about other Y2k problems in the utilities industry, I recommend "POWER"-ful Prognostications at the Westergaard Year 2000 site.

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