Single workman in Yuma causes power outage affecting millions

Oops! A single worker caused the massive blackout across the Southwest on Thursday night, the power company admitted.

The blackout, which left about 5 million people without power, may be one of the biggest caused by human error…Officials believe the outage, which hit at 4 p.m. Thursday, happened when a power worker removed a piece of equipment at a substation. According to the power company APS, there should have been some safeguards that would have limited the outage in most cases.

“Operating and protection protocols typically would have isolated the resulting outage to the Yuma area,” APS said in a press release. “The reason that did not occur in this case will be the focal point of the investigation into the event, which already is under way.”

It took more than 12 hours for power to be restored for people affected by the outage, an area that ranged from Mexico to Southern California to Arizona.

“There appears to be two failures here – one is human failure and the other is a system failure. Both of those will be addressed,” Damon Gross, a spokesman for Pinnacle West Capital’s Arizona utility Arizona Public Service, told MSNBC.

They’re going to smack the capacitor that had to be replaced on its bottom with a battery cable. Hopefully, they won’t be as severe with the poor bugger who was just trying to replace it.

The fact remains that for systems as critical as this more than simple redundancy is required. Allotting only one person isn’t sufficient – you need someone to say “Check!” Saving chump change and leaving room for a failure the size of a small country ain’t the way to manage complex infrastructure.

‘Eternal plane’ lands in Yuma, Arizona

The UK-built Zephyr unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has confirmed its place in aviation history as the first “eternal plane”.

The solar-powered craft completed two weeks of non-stop flight above a US Army range in Arizona before being commanded to make a landing.

The Qinetiq company which developed Zephyr said the UAV had nothing to prove by staying in the air any longer.

It had already smashed all endurance records for an unpiloted vehicle before it touched down at 1504 BST (0704 local) on Friday…

Zephyr took off from the Yuma Proving Ground at 1440 BST (0640 local time) on Friday, 9 July.

After only 31 hours in the air, it had bettered the official world record for a long-duration flight by a drone; but then it kept on going, unencumbered by the need to take on the liquid fuel that sustains traditional aircraft.

Clear skies at 60,000ft delivered copious amounts of sunshine to its amorphous silicon solar arrays, charging its lithium-sulphur batteries and keeping its two propellers turning.

At night, Zephyr lost some altitude but the energy stored in the batteries was more than sufficient to maintain the plane in the air.

Zephyr is set to be credited with a new world endurance record (336 hours, 24 minutes) for an unmanned, un-refuelled aircraft – provided a representative of the world air sports federation, who was present at Yuma, is satisfied its rules have been followed properly.

One more step in a lot of right directions.

Solar plane flies 7 days non-stop – and is still going

The UK-built Zephyr solar-powered plane has smashed the endurance record for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The craft took off from the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona at 1440 BST (0640 local time) last Friday and is still in the air. Its non-stop operation, day and night, means it has now gone five times longer than the official mark recognised by the world air sports federation.

The plane has been developed by the defence and research company Qinetiq. Its project manager, Jon Saltmarsh, said Zephyr would be brought down once it had flown non-stop for a fortnight.

Zephyr is basically the first ‘eternal aircraft’,” he told BBC News…

The military will want to use them as reconnaissance and communications platforms. Civilian and scientific programmes will equip them with small payloads for Earth observation duties.

Their unique selling point is their persistence over a location. Low-Earth orbiting satellites come and go in a swift pass overhead, and the bigger drones now operated by the military still need to return to base at regular intervals for refuelling.

But as Zephyr has now proved, solar UAVs can be left in the sky.

Their solar cells drive propellers during the day and top up their batteries to maintain the craft through the dark hours of night. An autopilot keeps them circling over the same spot.

RTFA. Lots of detail, interesting details.

The most cynical will be expected to focus in military and police use of the technology. Which is a shame. If that’s all you can think of – we probably should have given up on cameras and binoculars.

Arizona desalting plant starts pilot run next spring – finally

Cienega de Santa Clara

A decision has been made to conduct a pilot run of the Yuma Desalting Plant in May…

The plant, west of Yuma, was essentially completed in 1992. Initial operational testing was conducted at about one-third capacity until early 1993, when it was stopped after flooding on the Gila River damaged a portion of the irrigation drainage canal…

“Drought, population growth and the continuing need for water in the Southwest have increased the demand on the Colorado River,” Lorri Gray-Lee said. “This collaborative undertaking is one more example of the ongoing state-federal partnership effort to address the drought’s impacts, conserve and stretch the river’s water supply and identify and secure additional supplies…”

About 21,700 acre-feet of desalted water will be produced during the pilot run. This water will be combined with 7,300 acre-feet of untreated irrigation drainage water and the total amount – 29,000 acre-feet – will be discharged into the Colorado River and included in deliveries to Mexico as required by treaty…

Construction of the desalting plant was authorized by the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act of 1974. Its purpose was to desalt irrigation drainage water flows from the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District so a portion of that water could be included in treaty-required deliveries of Colorado River water to Mexico. Since 1977, this drainage water has been conveyed from the district to the Cienega, bypassing the desalting plant.

At this time, Reclamation is not proposing to operate the plant beyond the pilot run, Gray-Lee said. “Any decision about the plant’s future will be made after the pilot run is completed or terminated…

Perish the thought you should hurry the process. Follow usual political standards and wait until water has run out in the region for a decade or two – so you won’t affront know-nothing skeptics or this week’s hate-the-furriner crowd.

U.S. border agents capture Mexican troops

Seven members of the Mexican military were found inside the United States, telling border agents they had become disoriented while on patrol and accidentally crossed into the country, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said.

The incident began about 8 a.m. Friday, when the Border Patrol’s Yuma, Arizona, sector was notified that a military-style Hummer was broken down, Customs and Border Patrol said in a written statement.

Agents said they found the vehicle about 200 yards from the Colorado River, and the seven individuals were dressed in military-style clothing. Customs and Border Patrol later determined that the troops’ entry was unauthorized.

U.S. agents told the Mexican troops they were inside the United States and “peaceably” took them into custody, the statement said. “At no time were any hostilities exchanged between the agents and military officials.”

The Hummer was equipped with a turret-mounted machine gun…

“This is not an uncommon occurrence,” Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado, told CNN. “Often times, it is the result of the Mexican military providing cover essentially for drug transportation across into our country, and/or creating a diversion so it will draw our people away from the place where the drugs are coming across.”

In August, the Border Patrol said Mexican troops had crossed the border illegally 42 times since October 2007.

Silly me. I thought they probably just got lost. Although – talking to friends who just returned from the Yuma area – it’s pretty difficult to get lost there.