Two reasons why the power grid will not fail on April 05, 2020 at 9 pm

PM Narendra Modi has asked citizen of the country to switch off lights at home and light up a lamp for 9 minutes at 9 PM on April 05, 2020. This is a symbolic challenge to the darkness spread by the corona crisis. It is the super resolve and super power of 130 crore Indians who will take us towards light and hope. We have to strive to take those who are affected from disappointment to hope. We must defeat the darkness of this crisis by spreading the glory of light in all directions.

The Prime Minister of India has further gone to elaborate the details of this activity. At 9 PM everyone will switch off all the lights in your homes and stand at your doorstep or balconies for 9 minutes with any form of light. It can be a candle or a traditional diyas. It can even by mobile phone torches which we all have. Do not go out on the roads and do not cross the “Lakshman Rekha” of social distancing. Let this radiance of light show that we have resolve in our mind and that we are not alone.

A cause of concern has been raised by a few opposition leaders that if the whole country switches off the lights at the same time there will be huge power fluctuations within a short time of 9 minutes and this will cause disturbances in the power grid. This may lead to some harm to sensitive electronic equipment and also might do a greater damage to the national power grid and power distribution network. The purpose of this article is to explain why this will not happen.

Technical explanation – Power factor and use of capacitors

Capacitors are commonly used with all home appliances who have a motor like fan or food processor. A weak capacitor does not allow the fan to run. A capacitor provides a burst of power for a small amount of time. It provides a leading power factor. In other words, it acts as another source of power to turn the motor to enable it to begin running. Capacitors are like batteries which can be charged and discharged as per need.

Power distribution companies have large capacitor banks installed to take care of power fluctuations and provide a better power factor. Fluctuations in demand will be ironed out by these capacitor banks. Capacitors improve the power quality by reducing harmonics in the system.

Capacitor banks can be seen as large water tanks. They store power in the form of electricity like a battery. They are also less cheaper than a battery and require far less maintenance. Capacitors help power companies to keep the power factor as close to 1 as possible, zero being the lowest. They help overcome any additional power requirements for a short duration.

So switching off the lights in the house on April 05 at 9 pm is the same as a power cut after which, once power is restored, all the appliances are switched on at the same time and power companies handle the additional load with ease.

Earth Hour celebrated every year in March

Has such switching off of lights done earlier? Has it ever led to the failure of power grid at the national level. The answer is NO. Let us understand the concept of Earth Hour. Every year at the end of March, individuals and corporations are encouraged to switch off all electrical appliances for one hour. It started of as a lights-off event in Sydney in 2007. Today it is world wide movement organized by the World Wide Fund for nature (WWF). It is followed by more than 187 countries across the world. All lights are switched off between 8:30 pm to 9;30 pm to raise awareness on global rise in pollution and ecological damage.

There have been critics of Earth Hour because it is symbolic in nature and does not have any real effects on reducing consumption. Others argue that being symbolic it has no tangible effects. But the crux of the matter is that it has never damaged the national power distribution grid.

Observing Earth Hour every year has never damaged the national power distribution grid in any country…

So citizen of our great country, you can observe a 9 minute journey into the light by switching off all lights in your house without worrying about damaging the distribution system. Be a part of this great symbolic moment.

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