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Today at 01:52 PM Black Starts: How The Grid Gets Restarted by brandtb

In addition to the article on the grid, this link includes a video on how to 'flash' a home generator to make it produce power -


The now-fabled “February Freeze” left millions, mostly in Texas, scrabbling about in the dark and cold as a series of cascading engineering failures took apart their electrical grid, piece by piece, county by county.

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. . . we’ll be focusing on one aspect of the February grid crash that’s often bandied about but rarely explained: that the Texas grid was mere minutes away from collapsing completely, and that it would have taken weeks or months to restore had it been able to slip away. Is that really possible? Can the power grid just “go away” completely and suddenly? The answer, sadly, is yes, but thankfully a lot of thought has been put into not only preventing it from happening but also how to restart everything if it does happen, by performing what’s known as a “Black Start.”

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Power generation is simple in theory, and we all learned the basics at one time or another — turn potential energy into kinetic energy to spin a magnet inside a big coil of wire. But the details are where the complexity lies. For example, in a coal power plant, milling the raw coal to the proper size to be used as fuel in the boilers takes power, as do the conveyors that feed the boilers, the actuators that control the valves, the sensors and control systems that regulate the speed of the turbines, and the switchgear that connects the generators to the grid. It takes power to make power . . .

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Aside from the equipment needed to fuel and control the power plant, there’s another piece of the black start puzzle that may come into play: excitation current. Most power plants use self-excited generators, meaning a small amount of the current they produce is used to power the field coils of the generator, creating the powerful magnetic field needed to generate electricity. Once a self-excited generator spins to a stop, there’s no current available to excite the field coils.

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Extended outages, however, may cause a rotor’s magnetic field to weaken enough that it will need a little help getting going. Black start procedures need to account for this eventuality by providing a means to “flash” the field windings with external power. The process for smaller generators is very similar, and it’s worth keeping in mind for anyone who stores a generator without actually taking it out and using it occasionally. Just keep in mind that for a power plant, it’s going to take much more than a hand drill to flash the windings.

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At the risk of oversimplifying a complex and far-flung series of events, for want of a set of tire chains, Texas came astonishingly close to losing their power not just for a couple of days, but for weeks or possibly months. It didn’t happen in this case, but only just barely and by several strokes of luck. We’ve no doubt that a lot of engineering skill and ingenuity went into getting the reluctant black start generators back online, too, so hats off to everyone who worked hard to avert the catastrophe. Hopefully, this will serve as a wake-up call . . .


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Yesterday at 06:00 PM Any Chance Personal Survival Pak Comes Back? by KenK

While I know there is no shortage of survival kit offerings out there, I've long felt that Doug's Personal Survival Pak was VERY well thought out and very much worth its price. Before it came out I'd spent far too much money accumulating survival kit contents. Heck, shipping costs for individual elements alone added up.

Now that we've seen the second generation RSK MK1 rise even better from the ashes of the first generation RSK MK1, I find myself wondering if there is any chance that a similar thing could happen to Doug's Personal Survival Pak.

Your thoughts?

106 Views · 4 Comments
11/29/21 07:54 PM My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 by amper

Even though I bought myself a new Fenix E12 v2.0 to use as my EDC flashlight earlier this year, and I'm very pleased with it, recently, I decided to look for an EDC light with a red secondary LED to help preserve night vision when I want that, so since my birthday is coming up soon, I went ahead and got one.

My criteria:
1. Must use a common cell type, a single cell, and can preferably use both primary and rechargeable lithium cells (AA/14500, CR123A/16340).
2. Must have one-handed, direct access from off to the lowest brightness mode of the primary LED, regardless of last-used state.
3. Must have one-handed, direct access from off to the red secondary LED, regardless of last-used state.
4. Must have a lockout mechanism to prevent it turning on in my handbag and starting a fire.

In doing a whole bunch of research, the only lights I've been able to find that have all of these features are the Nitecore EC11 (IMR18350/16340/RCR123A/CR123A) and EA11 (14500/AA). Sadly, both of these lights are discontinued, but a few dealers still have a few units of the EC11 in stock, so I ordered one this past weekend before they are all gone, and it arrived today.

The EC11 is pleasantly chunky in the hand, measuring 75 mm x 25.4 mm (about 2.95 in x 1 in). It has a flat, non-magnetic tailcap so it can stand on end, and it uses two forward switches for activation. My hands are not small, but I have no trouble comfortably operating the switches.

I actually think I would have preferred the EA11 because of the more common battery type, and for the fact that when operating on a 1.2 V battery, the "Low" mode is only 17 lumens, compared to 40 lumens for the EC11 operating on a 3.0 V battery, but no one has the EA11 in stock, anymore. Both models output 70 lumens on "Low" with a 3.6 V battery.

The EC11 and EA11 were apparently replaced by the MT10C and MT10A (itself now also discontinued), but the MT series adds a tailswitch, and because of that, no longer has one-handed direct access from off to any of the modes.

I also ordered a Fenix ARB-L16-700UP lithium-ion battery, a 16340 size with a built-in micro-USB charger. Although the EC11 is actually designed for an IMR18350 battery, there are none of these on the market with built-in USB chargers, and I don't want to invest in an external charger. The EC11 comes with a plastic spacer to allow the use of the 16340 or CR123A size batteries.

I'm actually planning on using the Keeppower 3.0 V regulated RCR123A batteries, but the Fenix battery was convenient to order from the same dealer from which I purchased the EC11. The only problem with the Keeppower cells is that they are actually 36 mm long, or 2 mm longer than the spec for a CR123A. Most of the 16340s I've seen, including those sold by Nitecore, are about 35 mm long.

In any case, I charged up the battery and popped it in. I'm pleased to say that the EC11 meets or exceeds my expectations is every regard. In addition to meeting all my criteria, it (and the EA11) also offer one-handed, direct access from off to the brightest primary LED mode, regardless of previous state. They have both electronic and mechanical lockouts (by unscrewing the tail cap to break the circuit).

I have found that the "Ultra-Low" 1 lumen mode (all batteries) is bright enough, even though I am more used to a 4-7 lumen "Low" mode, with the "Med" mode being 30-45 lumens, but the downside of the EC11 is the next brightness level up is a whopping 40-70 lumens (depending on battery). The EA11 is more sensible, at about 17 lumens *if* you use a 1.2 or 1.5 V battery. The EA11 body is also longer than that of the EC11. But, that is my only gripe about either of these lights, other than them also being discontinued.

As a result, they are nearly perfect, and there are no other lights on the market that I think can come this close to being perfect EDC lights.

Since this light will get used frequently, and can be recharged from my cell phone backup battery on the go, I'm not too worried about the measly 700 mAh capacity of the battery, which is about half that of a CR123A primary cell, and 1/4 that of an Energizer L91 lithium AA. CR123As are too expensive where I live, which is what led me to retire my Leatherman Serac S3 several years ago, after moving here, and I have no desire to buy them in bulk via mail-order, when the only thing that I have that actually uses them are my one flashlight (well, now two flashlights).

With the new 16340s/RCR123As, I'm happy to return to that cell size, but my old Leatherman was designed long before those became commonly available, and I don't want to risk destroying it. I will eventually re-home the Serac S3, maybe to my daughter who lives where CR123As can be found more cheaply.

The Fenix E12 v2.0 I bought earlier this year will now go in my backpacking/camping handbag, next to my Fenix HM23 headlamp, since I prefer to use the AA format in the backcountry.

I did not mention earlier than the maximum brightness of the EC11 and EA11 is 900 lumens when using high-discharge rate IMR batteries, because I frankly think that's superfluous, although it is nice to have. That drops to 450 lumens max in the EC11 with a 3.0 V CR123A lithium primary battery, or 160 lumens max in the EA11 when using a 1.2 V NiMH AA. I would never rely on an EDC flashlight for serious duty, but as the saying goes, the best flashlight is the one you have with you when you need a flashlight, and I have been in the outlying situations where I've needed to use my EDC light for searching for lost children or things that unexpectedly go "bump" in the night.

For a utility/EDC flashlight, having the ability to access all three of the most-used modes with a single button press is ideal.

From the "off" state:

A. press the Mode switch: red secondary
B. press and hold the Mode switch: white primary Turbo mode
C. press the On/Off switch: white primary last-used mode
D. press and hold the On/Off switch: white primary Ultra-Low mode

Finally, the EC11 and EA11 have a couple of nifty features: when you activate the electronic lockout, or when you first install a battery, the red secondary will blink out the battery voltage: x blinks for volts, then y blinks for tenths of volts. So, if it blink three times, then 6 times, the battery is at 3.6 V.

But wait! There's more! When the red secondary is one, you can press and hold the Mode button to enter red blinking beacon mode (about 2 Hz), or press and hold the On/Off button to put it in a stand-by mode where the red secondary blinks briefly once per second so it's easy to find if you drop it or set it down and forget where.

If these features appeal to you, you should probably track down one of these models, since, as I said, they are discontinued and will soon be gone.

I have no connection with Nitecore and receive no financial interest for talking about their products. I'm just a happy customer.

198 Views · 5 Comments
11/24/21 10:39 PM Converting to Tuf-Glide on Folding Knives by KenK

I've used a Sentry Tuf-Cloth on my knife blades since my first RSK Mk1 many many years ago. Great stuff.

To this point I've been using 3-in-1 oil on folding knife hinges relatively infrequently, but after reading so many recommendations to use Sentry Tuf-Glide on knife hinges I finally bought their needle tipped bottle.

Now I find myself wondering exactly how to convert to using Tuf-Glide. Should I somehow remove the previously applied oil first? If so, how do I safely de-oil the hinge? My first thought was brake cleaner spray, but I've read it can harm plastics. Then I wonder if I should dip the hinge in rubbing alcohol. Any advice?

354 Views · 6 Comments
11/23/21 10:30 PM Do military training groups scramble GPS signals? by clearwater

This fall we saw a bunch of Air Force SERE instructors setting up camp in a mountain range they haven't used before. For decades the have used the forest near the Pend Oreille river in WA state, but were up on the Kettle Crest during the last week of hunting season.

As I was heading cross country up a hill, probably about 5 miles from their camp, the GPS on my iPhone went crazy. First the compass pointed south, then froze, then started spinning faster than you could see, then it stopped and spun the other direction super fast. Then returned to normal.

Made me wonder if the SERE guys were using some sort of scrambler.

Using Gaia gps program.

By the way, the drivers we met from the Air Force were terrible. Afraid to get within 4 feet of the down hill shoulder. We had to put our driver side tires in the ditch with the passenger side way up hill to get around them when we met them on the little forest service roads.

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