The Power Grid. Is it as screwed up as we think it is?
This is a reprint from another blog post that I write.
On Facebook, a friend of mine shared this link on the Book O Faces.
And it got a few likes and it got 1 comment. My brother. He wrote in is normal manner:
My Brother from another mother thoughts on this.
Can confirm. And given the several years I spent working on grid cybersecurity, I can only offer this advice:
Invest in kerosene lanterns and solar ovens. The US electrical grid is in abysmal shape when it comes to security.
While the larger players in the space are eyed constantly by NERC and FERC and held to fairly rigid standards, they aren’t the problem. It’s the small, regional operators. The local electric co-ops and what not. People think these are not a priority target.
There is no such thing as a ‘non-priority target’ when it comes to the grid. Because of a little thing called a supply-chain attack.
If I, as a Bad Guy, can compromise a small electric co-op in, say, upstate New York, it is highly likely that my attack can then pivot to another operator. See, many of them have set up trust relationships between their networks in order to remain competitive against the Big Operators. If I compromise one of those networks, I now likely have a backdoor into several more.
This alone is worrisome. It means that I can now trip part of a regional grid. This, as we know, can have huge cascading effects if I do this at a period of heavy load on the grid. Hell, in the 90s a friggin SQUIRREL caused a huge blackout on the eastern seaboard.
But let’s consider that supply chain. Chances are also very likely that this co-op fraternity I’ve compromised has at least a few network connections to other, larger regional collectives as well. And some of them? They probably have some connections to the Big Boys like Duke, or MISO, or PJM. If I can actively exploit one, just one, security hole in their networks… people can die. That’s not even counting other things like infrastructure destruction, financial damage, and so on.
It is coming. The December 2015 attacks in Ukraine were, quite literally, the Russians testing some of their attacks against a grid that, while mostly older and outdated, was still based on the American system. They learned a lot.
So. Kerosene stoves, lanterns, stored water. All that good stuff.
So I started looking.
That is just a few.
Look, I am not coming down on the lineman. Those brave souls that risk it all to keep the power on. I’ll reserve that for the companies trying to make a quick buck and use 50 year old equipment. My neighborhood here in South Carolina, was built in the 1960s. It is a REGULAR occurrence to have power go out because SOME ONE TURNED ON THEIR WELDER.
Back at the ranch.
Cyber attacks. We KNOW the Russians are not going to send battalions of attack Squirrels to disable the power grid, (Ve are searching for Moose and Squirrel) They are going to do it with a keyboard. There is proof. As my brother pointed out the Russians have tried out their attacks in the Ukraine.
The US Government is trying. One thing is by using updated “retro” technology. Can you say manual switches and analog instruments? The older power grids are what we call legacy. They were built pre-internet and were never designed to be connected to the internet. Here is the article from Forbes, U.S. Government Makes Surprise Move To Secure Power Grid From Cyberattacks .
So, that helps the older companies. What about the newer that are interconnected? The older ones that are haphazardly connected? What do we do about that?
Well, my little brother spelled it out:
Invest in kerosene lanterns and solar ovens and stored water. All that good stuff.
This is what WE are good at.
Life with out power is not easy. The average person can not store enough fuel to run a generator forever. OK I tried the methane digester to fuel a genny. and it works but it is difficult. So, long term generator power is out. That leaves solar, water, and wind to power our homes.
Do you HAVE to have electricity? The short answer is no. The longer one is, “Well it would make a lot of things much easier.”
Food storage. Electricity has made our food storage a SNAP! Buy food. Put it in the fridge, BOOM stored and safe. Ummmm… what if there is no electricity?
Wind generators. most put out between 100 to 1000 watts. Sounds like a bunch of power. But that is all used to charge the battery bank. A fridge uses about 800 watts a day. Every day.
The same goes for solar and water. Solar is the easiest since there are no moving parts. You still need power inverters and batteries. For the average prepper like me and you, we do not have the thousands of bucks needed to get it off the ground.
Preserving your food.
We as a civilization stored foods for thousands of years. And no matter what people say. Food on Little House on the Prairie SUCKED. Why do you think HJ Heinz invented Ketchup? To mask the taste of rancid beef!
But we don’t have to go to the lengths of Henry Heinz to “mask” rancid food. Lets have NON rancid food! There are techniques that work to preserve food.
First, Canning. Yup, I’m a guy. Combat vet and medic. Motocross racer and all sorts of man stuff on my resume. But one that isn’t listed. I can. I can meat fish vegetables. You name it. I can it. Why? Well, my grandmother taught me. And I’ve taught my wife and kids. I could write down the steps. But there are professionals for that. One is the Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. Follow the instructions and your foods will come out tasty and safe.
A good entry level canner. I own one and have used it for years before an accident caused a loss of it and a lot of other property. The Presto 23 quart canner. It is not an All American 921. Which we had and lost also. But it is serviceable works very well and with car will last for years. Don’t forget jars and lids. Since we are prepping for the gods know what why buy lids that are one time use. We went to Tattler lids. They are reusable. Not cheap but they can be used over and over where tin lids are once. If your good twice.
Lighting the home.
We all turn to Kerosene lamps. I love em. And have lots of them. Downsides they smell a bit and need maintenance. Kerosene right now is plentiful. But, will it stay that way? The good thing about Kerosene is that it stores much better than gasoline. The rule of thumb for lamps is about 1/2 ounce of oil per hour. A gallon should last about 280 to 300 hours. Figure on 2.5 gallons a month. Or, 30 gallons of oil for a year of light.
Now, my calculations is based on 24 hours burn time. Also, that is for 1 lamp. But, it isn’t dark here 24 hours a day in the lower 48. (Thank the goodness!!! Alaska is a different story!) In reality you could run 4 lamps 5 hours a day on the same fuel. Oil lamps can also burn most vegetable oils and animal oils. But, they will smell not as good.
You can buy oil lamp wicks from Amazon. That link will get you about 12 feet of 3/4 inch wick for 7 bucks. Cheap enough to buy a bunch for just in case. How about making wicks? We did it long before we had electricity. Wicks were made at home from canvas. It took a while to find the method but I found a YouTube video on doing it. This man here makes wicks from artist canvas. Making a lamp wick part 1 And Making a lamp wick part 2 And Making a lamp wick part 3. I think any canvas without sizing will work well.
Ok earlier in this post I kind of dissed solar. So, hang on a minute and let me get some salt and catsup and eat those words. Nom nom nom. Taste like crap!
I was off on a tangent for a fridge. I had in mind those 29 cubic foot monsters. That need about 40-60 kwhs a month.
Now, for SHTF, we plan on preserving a lot of food naturally. Smoked, dried, canned etc. A refrigerator wont be used for every day food storage like they are today. Why don’t we use it to store food so that we can preserve it at a later time? Deer hunting, for example. Use the fridge to cool the meat and to hold it a safe temperature while you get everything ready to process it? Same with vegetables. The gods know that your sweet pea crop does not come in at once. Harvest a week or so at a time put in the fridge/freezer and then do it all at once.
I wasn’t thinking on this when I started writing this. All the calculations take into account a fridge running 24/7 365. What if you don’t need to run it all the time, and only when you need it? Other than that, keep it on “vacation” settings. Put a thermometer in it and set the temp to keep it about about 10 to 15 degrees below room temp. This will keep it cool, save your solar batteries, and not take forever to bring it to a lower temp. Doing it this way will allow you to cut down on the amount of solar cells needed.
For example the average 25 cubic foot fridge uses about 50kwh a month.
The Solar Panel Math
While there are a lot of variables to consider, a 5.5 x 3 foot solar panel can produce roughly 250 watts of electricity. If we assume the panel gets about four hours of direct sunlight per day (again, plenty of variance here), that’s 1000 watts or 1 kWh of power in one day. Thus, a total of 30 kWh per month with one panel. That is a lot lower than the power needs of a 25 cubic foot fridge.
So. let’s fudge the math a bit. I knew a homestead in New Mexico that tried this. They had a GE 20 cf. fridge. The math for it came out to 42 kwhs a month to run. He had 1 panel of 200 watts. His solution was he pulled out the shelves on the door. Then added 1 inch of hard foam insulation to the INSIDE walls and 2 inches to the door. He would then run the fridge at a colder setting during the day and then shut it off at night. This allowed him to cut the power needs of the fridge and increase its efficiency.
We can take my buddy’s idea, but down size it a bit to a 18 cf fridge. We can get by with a smaller solar set. A 100 watt panel with good daylight, mounted on stand that can rotate can generate up t0 600 watts a day. 6kwh times 30 is 18 kwhs a month. Totally doable for a smaller fridge. There are cheaper solar sets out there and more expensive. Me, I’m saving up for this one. Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit. 30 amps of power for 153 bucks. Then a second to power lights. Wait what? Last time you talked about Kerosene lights.
Ummm errrrr welll……… Ok,kerosene lamps are awesome. But will you be able to get more kerosene? Also, what is the cost? Here in South Carolina, Kerosene at Tractor Supply is $35.00 per 5 gallon can. $7 bucks a gallon. 5 cans of this per year per light. 175 bucks. The solar kit I linked is 153 bucks. (We still need to add in batteries and wiring, of course.) But, that is a one time charge. And the system can handle up to 4 100 watt panels. This is the actual wiring diagram for the linked system
We have a little 17 cf fridge in our house It takes 6.5 amps of power. That comes out to about 750 watts. An inverter needs to have more out put than the running power of a fridge. Good rule of thumb is at least double the amps of it running. So the proper size of inverter would have a surge rating of at least 1500 watts. The system we are building is using the KRIËGER 1100 Watt 12V Power Inverter . This will allow plenty of power to run a fridge, plus some LED lamps and recharge radio batteries
Using this method with a smaller fridge should take a lot of worry out of the prepper’s food storage. We won’t be able to go to Walmart for a gallon of milk. But if we have goats or cows we can store some it as fresh. We will be able to store food until we have enough to make processing less of a daily chore. Or, just to have that moral boost of ice cream in an dark world.
Why is a SHTF medical website talking about food and solar power? Well simple. Food is medicine. Safe food is paramount in the SHTF world. Having the ability to store medications that require cold is IMPORTANT