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Beat the Heat: Addressing Summer’s Greatest Power Threats

The dog days of summer are here. Between the beach trips and back-to-school planning, it can be easy to forget that the season brings a sizzling array of threats. That’s because power anomalies don’t take a summer vacation. In fact, more than 36 percent of all U.S. power outages occur during the summer months, according to data compiled by Eaton’s Blackout Tracker between 2008-2017.

Over the past decade, the Blackout Tracker has logged more outages in June, July and August than any other months of the year. Even more alarming, the total number of summer outages has steadily grown, from 1,005 events tallied in 2012, to 1,457 captured in 2016—a 45 percent increase. Every summer, nearly 4 million people are affected by blackouts that collectively encompass almost 30,000 hours—that’s 125 days!

So, what’s behind the seasonal mayhem? Below we outline some of summertime’s greatest threats and what power industry professionals can do to help their organizations and customers prepare for power outages. 

Seven hazards of summer

  1. Hurricanes – Summertime in the Atlantic can be home to a host of dramatic, dangerous—and blackout-inducing—weather conditions. Considered to be some of the most violent storms on Earth, hurricanes are tropical cyclones that draw their energy from sea water that has been heated to at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting whipping winds, torrential downpours and floods create a perfect storm for power outages.
  2. Thunderstorms – Because summer is the warmest season and time of year with the most energy in the atmosphere, thunderstorms are most prevalent between May and August. The two biggest threats associated with this weather condition are lightning—which can strike 10-15 miles away even under clear skies—and flash floods, both of which are common sources of power outages. 
  3. Monsoons – Monsoons occur during the summer months, and can be defined as a regional circulation pattern in the atmosphere that brings humidity of moisture to areas that otherwise are very dry. The large-scale shifts in wind direction bring massive, near-daily thunderstorms to regions that are typically dry seven or eight months of the year.
  4. Flooding – While the risk of flood damage varies from property to property, unexpected floods can happen anytime, anywhere. Summertime’s plethora of wild weather—including hurricanes, thunderstorms and monsoons—make the season susceptible to floods, which can cause damage to both above-ground and underground electrical equipment.
  5. Wildfires – Triple-digit temperatures and hot, gusty winds have repeatedly been a recipe for disaster, leading to rapidly spreading wildfires that have caused long-term blackouts for some residents. There are numerous ways that fires can spark blackouts.
  6. Excessive heat – There’s a reason power always seems to go off on the hottest days of summer—and naturally, takes down your air conditioner with it. Chalk it up to a chain reaction that occurs on the heat-sensitive power grid. Because air conditioners consume significant power—which is generated at only a few places in the country—the transmission lines can become overtasked.
  7. Grid overdemand – Because the national power grid is especially vulnerable during peak demand—the moment when air conditioners, equipment and appliances collectively suck up the most electricity—it increases the risk of unplanned outages during summer. In fact, more than 57 percent of outages attributed to overdemand occurred during the summer months, according to Eaton Blackout Tracker data.  

How to be prepared

With the ever-present threats that persist in the summertime months, it’s more important than ever to have a disaster recovery plan that includes reliable power protection. Although power failures are common due to weather and unforeseen events, uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), generators and power management software solutions are designed to deliver reliable power during outages so data centers and IT functions stay up-and-running.

To ensure a robust power protection plan, those who oversee IT and energy management should consider combining power management solutions with remote power monitoring services and software. When used together, these services deliver the support of experienced technical alarm experts — keeping tabs on an organization’s power devices 24x7 and alerting key personnel to potential anomalies — along with the ability to remotely monitor, manage and control power devices.

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