Thursday, July 13

a thing I ponder upon at times

Why is it that the US from all developed countries still use technology and methods that are remnants from 1910!?
Goodness me, all European countries, Japan and Russia (even Cuba) have managed to put all their wires down into the ground by now, in cities and suburban areas and most of the urban places as well. But in the US, except for major metropolitan sites, most of all the electricity supply, cable, telephone and other "wire supplies" are still mounted on wooden posts and are strung from here to there through the air. How backward is that? From the porch of a fine Mexican Restaurant I visited the other day, I took this picture which might be graphically charming, but as an afterthought disturbing.
How come that the nation who boosts itself to be the leader of innovation can't manage to simply keep up with the times!
It's so funny; all winter long crews with orange painted trucks buzz around and repair the broken wires that have been damaged by broken limbs from the last snow storm - an army of little orange trucks, out there each day to mend those strings. It seems that America is all about continuously mending things at home while trying to fix things abroad.
More specifically, the US is the only industrial nation that still has 110 Volt running through their grid (I don't know about Canada, they might be codependent suckers as well). Every other country of speaking has 220 volts. Why are these numbers of any kind of importance? Simple - energy loss! The lower the voltage, the higher the energy loss in transporting electricity around the grid. This is not an idle number game, it will become an acute issue in days to come when our energy supplies dwindle and also become enormously costly. I believe the math goes like this: If the US would be able to switch to 220 volts the savings would be close to 15%. This might not sound much to you, but compounded by 250 million people it does make a difference.
Next time this year oil will be at a minimum of $120 a barrel and electricity prices will soar accordingly. Americas primal elderly home (Florida) will swelter and elderly people will die like flies because they will not be able to afford air conditioning anymore. Oh well. Maybe the land of innovation will finally have to learn to invest in it's future - maybe starting by putting them damn wires underground like any other decent developed country,,,, and, ah yes - switching to 220 volts.
Dream on Zee - it's never going to happen ... before it's too late.

9 comments:

_z. said...

zee_
We’re still 110v here in Canada.

I have a theory:
Could the curse of the "American dream", and Suburbia be blamed for that?

I am speaking of course from an "urbanism" point of view.
Urban Sprawl is suffocating North America. This tendency is mostly found in American cities. In Europe, not so much! And the lands to cover are smaller.

It costs a lot of money to install the wires underground. In big cities, this problem is solved because it is the responsibility of the city, and the government to install this infrastructure… with the tax payer’s money of course.
Whereas in Suburbia, it is at the expense of the developers commissioned by the city! With no strict and enforced urban design guidelines and bylaws, the developer weighs the pros and cons of installing the underground system and then having to sell the houses at higher prices to pay it off (risky), or just leave it as is… develop cookie-cutter neighborhoods and houses, build, make money, and forget.

Haider Droubi said...

intresting info...

Janet said...

Why are the wires still above ground? Because it is more expensive for the consumer. AT&T is happy that way...

And unfortunately, AT&T has much more leverage over legislation than you or I. You might say that BIG ELECTRICITY is the government's bitch.

Ingrid said...

It is so ugly indeed. When the issue of money comes up, I always remember yet another hurricane in Florida or where ever and people having no electricity after they get hit..yea..too expensive indeed!
It's one of my pet peeves actually and I am lucky to live in a neighbourhood that doesn't have them..wouldn't want to either!
Ingrid

Progressive Traditionalist said...

Good idea, about the power conversion, but a bit flawed.
Everyone has 240v running into their homes at the box. If you have a washer hook-up or an electric oven, you get straight 240v there.
The 120v comes from splitting off a leg at the box.

Fallen lines do account for some power loss after a hurricane, but most of it is due to blown transformer stations.

The rest of the world is on 50Hz, whereas US & Canada are on 60Hz. Maybe Asutralia too, I forget.

Zee said...

No, nobody has running 240V that is an illusion, it's just fusing two 110's that makes that happen. Besides, think of all the millions of miles of wiring in each and every house in the US, a total waste!
European systems use higher voltages, generally 3300 volts to ground, in support of the 220/380Y volt power systems used in those countries. For example in the UK, urban systems progressed to 6.6 kV and then 11 kV (phase to phase), the most common distribution voltage.
North American and European power distribution systems also differ in that North American systems tend to have a greater number of low-voltage step-down transformers located closer to customers' premises. For example, in the US a pole-mounted transformer in a suburban setting may supply only a single or a very few houses, whereas in the UK a typical urban or suburban low-voltage substation might be rated at 2 MW and supply a whole neighbourhood. This is because the higher voltage used in Europe (230 V vs 120 V) may be carried over a greater distance with acceptable power loss. An advantage of the North American setup is that failure or maintenance on a single transformer will only affect a few customers. Advantages of the UK setup are that fewer transformers are required; larger and more efficient transformers are used, and due to diversity there need be less spare capacity in the transformers, reducing power wastage. So there you go smart ass...

Progressive Traditionalist said...

That is very interesting, especially the part about the transformers.
But I thought there was something odd about this; namely, that current involves an actual physical mass, and produces heat (power loss).

You see, this is where I spent half of May and part of June, and I didn't think was producing 110v. Sure enough....

But you can find this in Wikipedia. Excerpts:
Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 7.2% in 1995, and in the UK at 7.4% in 1998.
In 1967 the first extra-high-voltage transmission at 735 kV took place on a Hydro-Qu├ębec transmission line.

& btw, those two 120v legs are known as 240v single-phase power. That's the way AC power works. Look inside your breaker box.

Zee said...

bottom line, the grid in the US is antiquated and needs upgrading

Progressive Traditionalist said...

Agreed.
But too much of this is due to the regulation/deregulation cylces.
For instance, in Florida, no utility company can sell electricity that is not owned within the state. And it is very expensive.
Most of the regulations were put into place to maximize profits for the companies, and deregulation takes place for the same reason. Very little real oversight.