Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A brief self-tour of our own domestic transformer manufacturing and electric grid recovery capability

Yesterday (Monday, May 5) I spent part of the day in Lynchburg, VA, and drove past a few provocative places.

For one thing, I saw the grounds of the company Delta Star, discussed here March 5, with regard to the difficulty of making and transporting the really large electrical transformers that would be needed if the US or North America lost a large part of the power grid to a big solar storm (with coronal mass ejections) or a terrorist EMP attack (most likely from a high altitude nuclear blast, but possibly for localized flux weapons in use by the military). 

Companies like this tend to live in obscure industrial areas of medium sized cities in the South and Midwest.   They are hard to find and tend to keep a low profile, for understandable reasons. At the time, the street was one-way and held-up by workmen for paving. 

The campus looked much larger than that of Virginia Transformer (July 17, 2013) in Roanoke (about 80 miles from this site). 

Lynchburg is known as the former home of Jerry Falwell, and businesses and streets (the main expressway bypass of US 29) are named after him.  Many homes have Christian or evangelistic yard signs (like “He Lives”).  Liberty University (associated with Falwell and Thomas Road Baptist Church) is there, as are a number of Christian private schools that have sometimes provoked controversy.  I passed one church with a book sale – I don’t think it would want to carry mine!

Lynchburg also had a CSX rail accident and oil spill recently (“cf” blog, May 1).

Still, it’s a lot healthier for us to make our transformers in a place like Lynchburg than in China or India.  I have the distinct impression that the physical security of the actual hardware components of the power grid is a more pressing issue even than cybersecurity, although I agree that Heartbleed shows that we shouldn't have control of the grid connected directly to the public Internet.    

Video above (mine): CSX coal train running in Lynchburg, site of derailment and oil spill last week. 

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