About a month ago, the Boston area was hit with a slush storm (snow followed by sleet followed by rain which created a disgusting mess). To the city it was a crappy day.
About 15 miles to the north and west of the city, the slush was quickly followed by below freezing temperatures which weighed heavily on trees, power lines and the hearts of citizens everywhere. Yes. Power was lost.
But this was no ordinary ice storm. While most areas had power back within a day, there were others that went over a week without power. My brother, who lived in the hardest hit area, had to stand in an hour long line at Home Depot for the privilege of spending $700 on a gas generator so he could heat his house. He needed it for three days straight.
He waited so long for his lame ass electric company to come along and hang wires that had been ripped from the side of his house that he finally just did it himself. He also cut down branches around his house because the town was so far behind.
That’s what he gets for living in North BumFuck.
And, hey, shit happens. These storms occasionally stop in, kick ass, take names, assault the women before moving on and there isn’t much to do but hope for the best. Or live in the city. Which is what I like to do.
Unfortunately this particular electric company, Unitil, was so ill equipped to handle the storm and so far behind schedule, they finally had to call in workers from as far away as Indiana to help out. And they worked for National Grid.
I couldn’t make this shit up.
Anyway, residents were so pissed off about the lack of response and communication from Unitil, they want them fired. I would point out that when you contract out with a power company nobody has heard of before (I never heard of them until this storm and I live in the area) there is a good chance you’ll find out why nobody has heard of them at some point. But I don’t like kicking a town full of powerless residents while they’re down.
Lucky for me they’re back up now and Unitil did apologize and all, so let’s assume all is forgiven.
Besides, I’m not here to accuse. I’m here to help and provide direction.
As proof, I give you Dartmouth University’s Victor Petrenko. Victor and his friends at Ice Engineering (which deals with engineering thing designed to deal with ice and not actually using ice to engineer things. Those would be a waste of time as they would melt eventually) have developed a cheap and effective method to keep power lines from icing. It’s called a variable resistance cable (VRC because we LOVE acronyms) and the process is simple.
By modifying the existing power lines and adding some ‘off the shelf’ electronics, the standard ‘low’ resistance of most power lines is turned to ‘high’. This increases the heat of the lines and melts any accumulating ice and snow.
Fucking brilliant! Or, as Gabriel Martinez, a student of Petrenko, says, ‘The beauty of the VRC system is that it's fully customizable and is an affordable addition to the current manufacturing and installation process. And it works without causing any service interruption whatsoever’.
I’m betting that ‘no service interruption’ is music to the ears of Unitil’s customers.
Testing will begin in Russia – where winter is a way of life – this month. If all goes well, this should be available next winter in our area.
Hey, Unitil, instead of simply apologizing for 10 people freezing to death or worrying about death threats from popsicles that used to be your customers, why not get in touch with Dartmouth and inquire about testing this new technology on your lines.
That is, if you’re still around next winter to try.
Today’s distraction: Some of these are repeats, but here are more ‘FAIL’ pictures as a tribute to Unitil. Worth it for the last one on the list.