11 reasons Venezuela is mired in a nationwide blackout - and why the problem may not be fixed any time soon
This story originally appeared on Caracas Chronicles
- Venezuela is currently dealing with nationwide blackouts that have lasted for days.
- The embattled government of President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the outages on sabotage.
- But power cuts have become common as Venezuela's electrical industry loses investment and know-how.
How did this blackout begin? What started the event?
There is no official information. The regime only says this is an act of sabotage, and that US Senator Marco Rubio and the Venezuelan opposition are to blame for it.From people inside the electric industry, we know that an overheat alarm was triggered between the San Geronimo B and Malena substations, which are like nodes. San Geronimo B is just South of Valle de La Pascua (Guarico state, central plains); Malena is a bit in the middle of nowhere, between Bolivar's Trocal 19 and the Orinoco River.
From San Geronimo B substation, comes the electric load to power all the TVs, light bulbs, blenders, etc. At Malena substation end the cables that come directly from the turning water wheels of the Guri dam. If you follow the lines from Guri, the country's main dam South of Ciudad Guayana, they go North from Guri to Malena and San Geronimo, and from there it splits into several lines going to the central region and then to the rest of the country (East and West).
This particular corridor carries three 765 kV (kilovolts) power lines, which are the largest and most important lines of the country. One of these lines, apparently the one between San Geronimo B and Malena, went out and overloaded the other two, so all three died. When all of a sudden the lines went off and power wasn't getting through, not only all those TVs, blenders and lights went off: The water wheels started to spin out of control (in the industry we call this scenario a "load rejection"). Protections systems kicked in and the turbines shut themselves off, hopefully with no damage.
Imagine the National Electric System as a bicycle. The rear wheel is all the electric load, the pedals are the turbines, the Caroni river as the legs powering it, and the chain connecting the whole system are those 765 kV lines. On March 7th, that chain broke.
The engineers suspect that the overheat alarm was triggered by a forest fire. It is mandatory to keep vegetation trimmed under and around power lines, to avoid the risk of this kind of events. Anyone that has driven by the countryside and under these large power lines would see there's a corridor under the lines. These corridors haven't been maintained in years and there is a very hot summer going on. In a tropical country, this means the bushes can cover a line very fast.