Power plant testing

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Can Y2K turn power off? Plants will try to find out

CP&L is among the utilities that will participate in a drill Friday to see whether they'll have any problems.

From Staff And Wire Reports

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Power plants throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada will conduct a drill Friday to make sure they continue to provide electricity if year 2000 computer glitches prevent them from communicating with each other. The drill is one in a series being conducted by utility companies before Jan. 1, 2000. Plant operators depend on telephone and fiber-optic lines and microwave transmitters to get continuous data readouts of each other's power generation levels, demand for electricity and other factors so they can send crucial kilowatts over the national power grid to regions that need it most. In the drill, power plants will pretend that this data is unavailable, requiring them to share the information in other ways. "We're going to simulate loss of communication functions, which is the bugaboo and something we don't have control of," said Gregg Fishman, spokesman for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California. "We will go to backup communications, which basically is guys out at the substations with handheld radios." Raleigh-based Carolina Power & Light is among the utilities that plan to participate in the drill, spokesman Mike Hughes said. A second, more comprehensive drill has been scheduled for Sept. 9. CP&L also is testing its system on a continuing basis to make sure it's prepared, Hughes said. Communications are especially important during times of high demand, severe weather or if plants are disabled. Earlier this week, for instance, Florida power authorities had to cope with the possibility of outages caused by high temperatures and power plants that were down for routine maintenance. April 9 was chosen as the test date because it is the 99th day of 1999, a number experts fear might read as an error message in some computer programs because some programmers once typed in a series of 9s as placeholders. The larger problem, known as the Y2K bug, is that older computer programs and chips used only two digits for a year. There is concern that some programs might read 2000 as 1900, resulting in anything from erroneous calculations to outright failures. The North American Electric Reliability Council, a nonprofit industry group in Princeton, N.J, was asked by the U.S. Department of Energy to take a leadership role in making sure electrical utilities are ready for 2000. NERC reported in January that the year change probably will have "only minimal impact" on electricity production and distribution, because utilities around the country have been fixing and replacing affected equipment and conducting test after test. The Edison Electric Institute, the Washington, D.C.-based organization whose members generate about three-quarters of the country's electricity, has said all of its member utilities will complete testing and repairs by June 30. Utilities and others involved in power transmission can design their own scenarios for Friday's drill as long as they involve failure of current communication systems and use of backup systems. "This is more to focus on communications within a utility," said Mike Tyndall, spokesman for the Atlanta-based Southern Company, the largest U.S. electricity producer. Power production figures from all of the plants of Southern's five subsidiaries are usually fed electronically to the company's central nerve center in Birmingham, Ala., Tyndall explained. For the drill, people will be standing at plants and substations, reading the data and calling it into the nerve center over wireless phones, Tyndall said. Hydroelectric power plants will use microwave antennas as a backup communications system. "One of the scenarios we're interested in practicing for is if we lose telephones at the same time we're dealing with flood concerns," said Larry Ball, chief of operations and electrical maintenance for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at Keswick Dam in northern California. NERC plans to post a brief assessment of the drill results on its Web site -- http://www.nerc.com/~y2k/drills.html -- Friday and plans a more detailed assessment in three weeks.

-- Norm (2@641.com), April 08, 1999


Mr. Sysman, I assume that this is you posting on my behalf again?

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), April 08, 1999.

From a previous thread today:

The memo was also verified as genuine by Gene Gorzelnik of NERC public affairs. That memo tells power companies to withhold information about Y2K problems from the public and from the Department of Energy.

"Do not make the drill to (sic) complex. We want to have a successful and meaningful story for publication. Identify the 'success parameters' before the test. What are the weaknesses we are looking for," states the NERC instructions.

-- a (a@a.a), April 08, 1999.

Don't look at me Norm. I've never posted here under any other name. We do have a forger in our midst though.

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), April 08, 1999.

Don't be fooled by this spin. This is a "drill" not a "test". Drills are designed to succeed. The purpose of this one is so NERC can see Dan Rather (liberal) spout off on the Friday broadcast about how averything's alright and the sheeple can continue to sleep.

-- Buffalo Bob (buff@hal.com), April 08, 1999.

I agree Bob. See this thread for some other comments on the drill... <:)= NERC's April 9 Y2K Drill: What It Is, And What It Is Not

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), April 08, 1999.

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