The citizens of Fargo, North Dakota, have been having a rough time lately, and it's not related to wood chippers or the Coen brothers. A new report from WDAY says that the power is back on in Fargo after a second power outage in two days struck, this time caused by a fault in an electrical cable.
The reports pointed to a faulted cable that workers were actively engaged in replacing. An earlier faulted cable that had been replaced during the first power outage faulted again, and that—based on word from Xcel Energy's Mark Nisbet—caused the second power outage. This particular outage was comparatively short-lived; the initial impact hit 2,800 customers, and of these, 1,000 recovered from a brief outage as power switching systems kicked in and restored power without incident. Another 1,163 customers saw power out for about 30 minutes, and the remaining 640 customers were down about a half-hour more.
Nisbet noted that this was “absolutely a concern,” and further fixes were in the works to help cut down on this kind of problem, which has been seen in increasing numbers of late. Not only were there the two outages in May, but two incidents in South Fargo were seen only days prior, as a pole fire and downed lines caused outages for nearly 4,000 customers. Nisbet didn't think of this as a problem for the upcoming increased power demands summer would pose, but noted that the company was planning to “dive in and see what we have to do right now.”
On the one hand, the clear willingness to address problems immediately is a point in the company's favor. On the other, when you've got four power outage incidents in the span of a little over a week, it's clear that something is very wrong. It's clear that Xcel Energy needs to get to work or risk huge losses due to power outages—the meters don't tick, the customers don't consume, and the customers don't pay—which may well get worse as air conditioning season starts up.
This is also a point that demonstrates why backups are so important to everyday operations. When four outages can arrive in the space of a week or so, that's the kind of thing that can hamstring businesses. A backup power system can provide a few extra moments of juice to save work and shut down properly, or even larger systems can provide the normal power required for everyday operations.
Backup power systems are vital to continuing operations, and as long as small animals can take out the power grid—or it just buckles under its own weight—the idea of having power that can kick in when it's needed provides peace of mind and valuable continuity insurance in the event of disaster. That particular disaster seems more likely to happen than ever before, as demonstrated by Fargo's string of same.