Government "experiments" with power grid - You are going to be an Alpha tester.

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The ONE thing we could always "count on" is going to be screwed with?
The Government has decided to use all of us as "alpha" testers...

"The experiment would allow more frequency variation than it does now
without corrections. Officials say they want to try this to make the
power supply more reliable, save money and reduce what may be needless
efforts. The test is tentatively set to start in mid-July, but that
could change."
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Story:
(AP)  WASHINGTON (AP) — Our power supply has been so precise that we've
set our clocks by it. But time may be running out on that idea.

A yearlong experiment with the electric grid may make plug-in clocks and
devices like coffeemakers with programmable timers run up to 20 minutes
fast.

The group that oversees the U.S. power grid is proposing a change that
has the potential to disrupt electric clocks in schools, hospitals and
other institutions, according to a company presentation obtained by The
Associated Press. It may also mess with the timing of traffic lights,
security systems, sprinklers and some personal computer software and
hardware.

Since 1930, electric clocks have kept time based on the rate of the
electrical current that powers them. If the current slips off its usual
rate, clocks run a little fast or slow. Power companies now take steps
to correct it and keep the frequency of the current — and the time — as
precise as possible.

The experiment would allow more frequency variation than it does now
without corrections. Officials say they want to try this to make the
power supply more reliable, save money and reduce what may be needless
efforts. The test is tentatively set to start in mid-July, but that
could change.

Tweaking the power grid's frequency is expensive and takes a lot of
effort, said Joe McClelland, head of electric reliability for the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

"Is anyone using the grid to keep track of time?" McClelland said.
"Let's see if anyone complains if we eliminate it."

They will and they should, timekeepers say.

"A lot of people are going to have things break and they're not going to
know why," said Demetrios Matsakis, head of the time service department
at the U.S. Naval Observatory, one of two official timekeeping agencies
in the federal government.

The changes, however, are out of the hands of timekeepers and in control
of officials who supply the electrical power.

No one is quite sure what will be affected. This won't change the clocks
in cellphones, GPS systems or even on computers, and it won't have
anything to do with official U.S. time or Internet time.

But wall clocks and those on ovens and coffeemakers — anything that
flashes "12:00" when it loses power — may be just a bit off every
second, and that error can grow with time.

It's not easy figuring what will run fast and what won't. For example,
VCRs or DVRs that get their time from cable systems or the Internet
probably won't be affected, but those with clocks tied to the electric
current will be off a bit, Matsakis said.

This will be an interesting experiment to see how dependent our
timekeeping is on the power grid, Matsakis said.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. runs the nation's
interlocking web of transmission lines and power plants. A June 14
company presentation spelled out the potential effects of the change:
East Coast clocks may run as much as 20 minutes fast over a year, but
West Coast clocks are only likely to be off by 8 minutes. In Texas, it's
only an expected speed-up of 2 minutes.

Some parts of the grid, like in the East, tend to run faster than
others. Errors add up. If the grid averages just over 60 cycles a
second, clocks that rely on the grid will gain 14 seconds per day,
according to the company's presentation.

Spokeswoman Kimberly Mielcarek said the company is still discussing the
test and gauging reactions to its proposal, and may delay the experiment
a bit.

Mielcarek said in an email that the change is about making the grid more
reliable and that correcting the frequency for time deviations can cause
other unnecessary problems for the grid. She wrote that any problems
from the test are only possibilities.

In the future, more use of renewable energy from the sun and wind will
mean more variations in frequency on the grid, McClelland said. Solar
and wind power can drop off the grid with momentary changes in weather.
Correcting those deviations is expensive and requires instant back-up
power to be always at the ready, he said.

The test makes sense and should not cause too much of a hassle for
people, said Jay Apt, a business professor and director of the
Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

But Tim O'Brian, who heads the time and frequency division at the
National Institute of Standards and Technology, expects widespread
effects.

He said there are alternatives if people have problems from the test:
The federal government provides the official time by telephone and on
the Internet.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/24/ap/tech/main20074275.shtml

Re: Government "experiments" with power grid - You are going to be an Alpha tester.
Quoted text here. Click to load it

This is going to cause one big mess in broadcasting and medical fields
as well

Re: Government "experiments" with power grid - You are going to be an Alpha tester.
I have an electrical engineering degree, and this changes involve LESS
variance

of the power frequency. Years ago, when one power plant supplied one
town,

and electric clocks had mechanical motors, it made sense  to speed up
the

power grid frequency to make the clocks run fast for a day or two to
catch up to

the duration of the power outage.  But even that caused problems -- if
you just

reset the clock when the power came back on, the power company's
efforts

made THOSE clocks wrong -- they would be FAST by the amount of the

correction.  These periods of non-standard power frequency make it
extremely

difficult to merge into a regional power grid operating at normal
frequency.
And anyway,  today's  clocks with digital displays use quartz movments
and most

analog clocks use a battery movement - both unaffected by power grid

frequency.  Computers and electronic devices haven't cared about the
input

frequency for decades...almost all are designed for international use
where

some areas have 50 cycle power and other 60 cycles.

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