Friday, April 3, 2015

Smart Power Meters fry in electrical surge

Older, "dumb" meters unaffected:
Hundreds of smart electricity meters exploded in California after a truck crashed into a utility pole and caused a power surge on Monday.

More than 5,000 homes in Stockton have been affected, according to CBS Sacramento, following a surge caused by a rubbish lorry driver crashing into a utility pole and causing the pole's top wire to touch its bottom wire.

"The top lines are considered our freeways. The bottom lines are our distribution lines taking power directly to homes," a Pacific Gas and Electric spokesperson told CBS. "So when the two collide, they’re at different voltages and the higher voltage wins out, causing an overload."
The "Smart" meters are naturally more fragile to this sort of thing:
The Register notes that smart meters have to communicate with their corporate overlords outside the home. One commonly used method of doing so is powerline networking, which could mean a more direct connection between the meter's electronics and the mains feed into a home than would otherwise be the case.

Alternatively, it could be that non-smart meters which survived the surge were simple electromechanical models, and as such less likely to be affected by a surge than the smart meters. The latter would naturally contain relatively sensitive modern electronics.
But Governments like them because they can remotely turn off your air conditioning when their pie-in-the-sky wind power isn't generating electricity because there's no wind.


Michael said...

Sounds like having a smart-meter miight make you more likely to fry all your electrical appliances too! Why are we not seeing this article on the US news? Oh maybe because they want us all to line up for this invasive tech ...

No thanks ... so glad I went completely off grid solar last year. Best move I ever made! Saved 3k this year, a couple, more years and this system pays for itself.

B said...

Dude, the accident connected a 12.5KV line to a 1500V line. Hell yes it fried the smart meter. "Dumb" meters are effectively just motors. Smart meters are computers. I'd bet that a LOT of other electrical equipment was fried as well. Lucky that no fires were started in the homes.

Dave H said...

Those dumb meters may have survived, but I'd bet real money they're no longer accurate. They use permanent magnets to calibrate them, and a powerful alternating current tends to change the magnets' field strength. (Ironically, if you demagnetize the calibration magnets the meter runs faster, so you'll be over-billed.)

The relevant ANSI standards for electricity meters require electronic meters to have at least 2500 volts of isolation between the power line connection and anything else that comes out of the meter, like control or communication lines. It's no surprise they let out the smoke when exposed to that kind of juice.