Back in the mid 2000s after the dot-com crash in NY, I took a job for a Central Hudson subcontractor tasked with mapping the GPS coordinates of the major transmission power lines in lower upstate NY, in the counties to the north and west of the NYC. Central Hudson needed notes on the best access points for utility crews, and needed data on the footing condition of each steel tower or pole for maintenance purposes.
What this means is that I spent months riding a quad all over the mountains, forests, and swamps of NY, and got paid for it. I think I logged more than 1,000 miles in some very rough terrain.
One thing I took away from the experience was the fragility of the grid, and how isolated important transmission line towers and substations were. 9/11 was only a few years ago at that point, and I was acutely aware of how simple it would be for someone to topple some of these towers. Something as simple as a fire from stacking brush and logs around the supports (fire can melt steel, after all), perhaps helped along with a portable torch, could drop the steel towers. The wood structures would take even less. It would take firefighter’s an hour or more to access many locations, which were inaccessible to fire trucks.
To this day, I can’t ride past a transmission line and not cringe at the fragility of the system. Everyone focuses on the power stations, substations, and switches.
They seem to forget that all that power isn’t transmitted wirelessly.