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What blackouts could do to German electronics

05 Oct 2022 | Science Notes

A long, long time ago, on September 22nd to be exact, ancient history at this point as it preceded the underwater explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines, a prominent German politician suggested that rolling blackouts might begin happening in Germany this winter in “the unlikely event that the natural gas supply is interrupted.” In preparation for the said unlikely event Germans have been stocking up on electric heaters. Unfortunately their precautions also make blackouts more likely. Security of the electricity supply has been a problem for years in Germany due to its mad rush into unreliable renewables and its baffling decision to shut down its nuclear plants to fight climate change. Now, with dwindling natural gas supplies prompting German households to turn to electric heaters, experts are cautioning that “Germany’s power supply was “not designed for a simultaneous additional load” and “if too many of these devices are switched on at the same time, there is a risk of massive power outages.” And here we were told electrification was a panacea. But while blackouts themselves would be bad enough, a power engineer recently explained to German audiences what havoc restarting a downed grid could wreak on computers and other electronics.

H/t Pierre Gosselin of NoTricksZone who translated the comments of power engineer Robert Jungnischke from German:

“After a blackout, the power gets ramped up, but we have a huge problem. The problem is that there is no load. As I said earlier, power is tied to consumption and the power is regulated accordingly. I have a problem when power needs to be ramped up but there’s not yet any demand. That means the power fluctuates strongly and strongly fluctuating power is death for electronics. That means experts calculate about 30% of computers will be damaged during the ramp up of the power grid.”

Gosselin adds that Jungnischke has further warned that “many companies and people are poorly prepared, or not prepared at all. So when the blackout arrives, it will be too late for them.”

Yes it will. But for all practical purposes it is already too late. Although at the risk of causing a stampede to the electronics store we will suggest that everybody make sure they have reasonably new surge protectors (neues Spannungsschutzen) in place as those things do wear out over time and you’re going to need them.

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