Monkey triggers power grid blackout

Article By : Steve Taranovich

Blocking devices are usually installed in the US for the protection of large transformers and generators against EMP attacks, but how do you protect against a smart monkey?

Power companies in the US can be required to install blocking devices to protect large transformers and generators against man-made electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks or geomagnetic disturbances, but what about monkeys?

__Figure 1:__ Monkey down! Sitting and beaming a smile atop the affected transformer. (Image source: KenGen)

In Kenya recently, a monkey, native to that country, climbed onto the roof of the 180 MW Gitaru hydroelectric power station and then jumped or fell onto a transformer which became overloaded. The transformer subsequently tripped. This seemingly simple event actually triggered a nationwide blackout.

It is possible that the nationwide blackout was caused by a further cascade of transformer trips, or the grid may have tried to deal with a rapid reduction in power generation. Power was restored to the nation four hours later, and the monkey survived and has now been taken in by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

KenGen, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company, says that its power installations are secured by electric fencing which keeps away animals, but it seems like the monkey was able to evade the protected area. The company commented that it was now looking at ways of further enhance security at all their power plants.

James Williams from Duke Energy has recommended solutions for animal/bird intrusions. Maybe KenGen should hire the monkey as a consultant.

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