Saturday, March 26, 2011

Japan: 50Hz and 60Hz

I heard that Japan has lost 20% of its electrical generating capacity. This would be devastating in any country, but it is even worse in Japan. In the U.S., the electricity in our homes is standardized at 60Hz AC. That is, the polarity of the electricity alternates 60 times every second.

In Japan they use two different systems. In the south/west they use 60Hz. In the north/east (where the failed reactors are located) they use 50Hz. While 60Hz can be converted to 50Hz, Japan has a limited capacity to do this. So surplus energy in the south/west cannot easily be diverted to the north/east.

I've heard predictions that it will be months, possibly years, before full power is restored to Japan. It is sad that such bad public policy will make Japan's disaster even more painful.

There are some lessons to be learned from Japan's disaster that may be very important for the U.S.. There may be some things we should be doing right now to prevent large scale, long term power failures in the United States.

More later.

You didn't know that Japan has such an irrational power system? You aren't listening to National Public Radio! NPR is a national treasure. Don't let politicians damage it.

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