Power Grid So Fragile a Squirrel Can Break It

squirrel-1407699_640Our nation’s power grid is vulnerable. Sudden spikes in demand… severe weather… equipment failure… communications breakdowns… these can all lead to widespread power outages that last for hours or sometimes days.

In the worst cases, it can be ten days to two weeks before utilities are able to restore power.

Think about Hurricane Sandy. It knocked out power to millions of people, and it was two weeks before the lights came back on.

Or the snowstorms in 2011. The sudden, heavy snows downed power lines and caused power outages to more than three million people. Many had to wait ten days before power was restored. How would you do for ten days in the dead of winter without power? Would you be able to stay warm? Would you have enough to eat? Or would you have to venture out on icy roads to try to buy food from a grocery store that was also without power?

Now maybe you’re thinking, “Those kinds of things don’t happen very often.” (Severe weather causes outages on yearly basis in one location or another.)

But it isn’t always severe weather that triggers an outage. Sometimes it’s a squirrel.

Just a few days ago in Concord, nearly two thousand people were left without power because of a squirrel. Somehow the little critter managed to muck up the works enough to bring down a section of the local power grid.

Sure, officials got power restored within a couple of hours. But think about that… a squirrel!

My point is, the power grid is a fragile thing. Your power could go out at any time because of weather or because a key bit of equipment fails or because a utility technician makes a mistake.

For most people, it’s no big deal if the outage is just for a few hours, but when it extends into days, you need a personal back-up plan that will allow you to run lights, to keep food chilled, and to stay warm.

Solar panels are one option. And I have good news. Congress recently voted to extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit through 2019, which means you can install solar panels on your home and save 30% on the up-front costs. (I’m not a big fan of government tax credits, but they take so much from you—when you have a chance to get something back, I say go for it. Abstaining won’t fix the broken system, so go ahead and increase your self-reliance and save a little bit in the process.)

You can find out more about the extension and how to pick the best solar panels for your home when you read this in-depth article over at The Simple Dollar.