The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from Queens, is sillouetted against a pre-dawn sky Friday, Aug. 15, 2003. A widespread power outage hit most of northeastern United States Thursday afternoon, leaving the city in the dark. (AP Photos/Patricia McDonnell) ORG XMIT: MAPM103

Lovins On How To End Blackouts Forever

Come hell or high water—and Sandy brought both to many Americans—most of us can’t get the electricity we need. More than two weeks after the storm’s departure, 25,000 homes were still without power. We live high in the Rockies and were unaffected, but a couple of Februaries ago snowstorms knocked out our neighbors’ electricity on five different days. But ours stayed on — by design. Our house’s efficient lights and appliances save most of the electricity. This shrinks the solar power system that runs our meter backwards and sells back its surplus to the grid.

But unlike most solar-powered buildings, ours is wired to work with or without the grid. That’s where the Pentagon is headed with its own power supplies. Warfighters need their stuff to work. They’ve concluded that the vulnerability of the commercial power grid is far too great to ensure mission continuity. So they’re switching to efficient use, distributed and often renewable energy sources on or near their bases, and reorganizing their wiring into “microgrids.” These neighborhood power systems normally interconnect with the larger grid around them, but can stand alone as needed, disconnecting fractally and reconnecting seamlessly.

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