Line Failure Causes Massive Power Outage Across Brazil

March 23, 2018

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

A massive power outage in Brazil, on Wednesday, left tens of millions of people without electricity. The outage resulted from a failed transmission line near the Belo Monte hydroelectric station, effectively collapsing the power grid in the country’s northern and northeastern regions. Other areas of the country reported spotty outages that were restored within an hour, while the more severely impacted areas took much longer to restore.  Nearly a quarter of the grids total output of 18,000 megawatts was impacted by the failure of a line that was only recently brought online and wasn’t yet operating at maximum capacity.

Brazil is Latin America’s largest economy and with the outage impacting such a massive geographic area, countless businesses were unable to operate.  For small local businesses, the loss of business is damaging enough, but without power, perishable food items were at risk in restaurants and markets, potentially causing even greater loss. 

During any outage, powered equipment is always at risk, as surges or spikes can cause permanent damage to electrical components.  In some cases, it’s not a complete break of the electrical components, rather a weakening of the sensitive circuitry, making them more susceptible to failure with future incidents.

The impact of damaged technology is significant for businesses – especially those that rely on their investments to operate, which is most businesses today.  Whether it’s just basic PCs and laptops, printers, and a server or two, or an entire data center full of switches, storage, security and other equipment, damaged equipment requires a capital investment for replacement hardware.  In addition, the time and effort to install and configure systems is an additional labor cost, as well as more down time, not to mention restoration of lost data and software – assuming everything had been properly backed up.

This may seem like an extreme case, and the massive nature of the outage certainly is – it ranks among the biggest outages of the last 50 years – but the potential for equipment damage doesn’t change with the breadth or length of outage.  In fact, technology can be damaged by voltage spikes without power ever going out.

The reasonable response is for businesses to proactively take steps to protect their investments and install power protection and UPS systems that will regulate power into systems and provide enough backup power to safely power down if an outage occurs.  It’s an investment, but it’s one that can prevent much greater cost and loss in the long run.  

Edited by Mandi Nowitz

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