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New York Power Plant Explosion Seen as Glowing Reminder of Dire Need to Ditch Fossil Fuels


New York Power Plant Explosion Seen as Glowing Reminder of Dire Need to Ditch Fossil Fuels

Jake Johnson, staff writer

Though it immediately evoked images of "an alien invasion" or the eerie opening scene of a "monster movie," the explosion that briefly turned the New York City skyline bright blue late Thursday night was actually something rather more conventional, but still cause for serious alarm and action: an electrical blast at one of New York's


Most of the “journalism” is pretty technically ignorant. That this puts the plant in the middle of attention for a bit, reminding us that there is a plant burning fuel oil, is true but the seeming implication from the headline and the text that a transformer blowing up is about the fuel oil is nonsense.
A transformer can (and many do) blow up when overloaded or other reasons. I’ve seen enough of them, usually of the smaller, pole-mounted sizes. One in particular, behind our house blew out repeatedly for years before they finally replaced it with a large enough one to handle the load.
The one (?) that blew here is just larger and those don’t commonly blow. They do usually have oil in them as a heat conductor. That can be its own problem.
My real point is the level of non-technical journalism and the seeming implication (from the story) that if this were not a fuel-oil source of electricity this would not have happened. The transformer and the power plant’s fuel source are separate.
I would like to think that the public in general is more savvy than that but some of the reported reactions indicate a huge need for education. The transformers are one problem. The fuel-source for the plant is another problem, a large one.


Science is not Commondreams strong point.


Thank you for your comments. Yes, fossil fuels and transformers are two distinct issues. Again, thank you for being a voice for reason on this.


Clean energy fire would have made the sky glow green instead. This one was scary blue.


Your comment is spot on. Conflating this accident with fossil fuels is like pointing to a bridge collapse and saying, “That is why we need electric vehicles!”


This was not a direct fossil fuel event as might be alluded in the article. However, there maybe a relation to fossil fuel. It is substantially a lack of system up keep not unlike our falling bridges and pothole roads. The electrically conductive soot from the #6 bunker oil (cheap oil that would otherwise end up polluting the commons in another end use) settles on the insulators in the power transformer yard. The voltage can be in the hundreds of thousands. Combined with damp soot contaminated insulators, flash over occurs. The ionized air (seen as blue sky), itself extremely conductive, brings the adjacent systems into the event and there is a small version of the big bang theory. Not to worry, the utility company will replace it and pass the cost to customers. Makes a lot more profit than spending money on upkeep…


Either way, the point is to go Clean in New York and get rid of the filth. Shut down the Nuke Power Plants as well. All we have to do is ask Cuomo… If he gets paid enuf, maybe he’ll consider it.


I think y’all are missing the nuance of the message here. Its stated the power plant is “antiquated” and is causing other problems. Therefore, updating the power plant is a good opportunity to switch over to a sustainable energy source. That’s the message I got out of the article.


There is a lot of nice feelings expressed here. My question is what source of clean energy are you [individually or collectively] suggesting in lieu of fossil fuels. Wind energy is good but undependable, solar the same - rainy days and night times. The Niagara falls can only supply so much and I suspect most readers would oppose damming the falls and only allowing release at night or during periods of calm when wind and solar could not do their job. So unless a lot of you start to study the sciences and engineering and do your part to actually bring us forward, the constant sniping at what our ancestors have developed is at a minimum ungrateful thoughtlessness.


Constructively critiquing what our ancestors have done, openly acknowledging the inherent problems in those constructions and not forgetting about it till an improvement is made is not “constant sniping.” Does anyone have anything good to say about living in a smoke filled cave? How ungratefully thoughtless we all are for not continuing to live in caves and choke at the side of an open fireplace like our ancestors did…

I wish I was an engineer to answer your question. I hope that NY finds a suitable solution.
Now if we could get some more energy research done. Then maybe it would be easier to suggest some solutions. I’d be open to the development of fusion energy but if they can make tidal energy or solar or wind work, more power to them.


But not open to the development of better ways of doing fission?


After seeing how cool that looked, I’m not so sure they should get rid of the plant.


Well, they’re very selective about which science they find credible.
Science on climate and greenhouse gases is believed. However the science on genetically modified crops, nuclear power or the dangers of radiation is normally totally ignored, and anyone bringing up that science on these topics is accused of being a paid “shill” for the corresponding industry.


I’m not an engineer either, but I’ve paid enough attention to know that what you call the undependability of wind and solar applies only to the most local (single-family homes) installations. Even there, they generally feed batteries to keep things going overnight or whatever. And there already is power generation going on at Niagara, and the flow is regulated to keep it steady. You don’t have to dam a whole river.

I’m not sure what the answer is for Queens, but that’s where the engineers need to step in. They might look at some of the miles of rooftops in the area, at tides, … And anyway, do you know why they call it a grid?


Yes, quite possible.


I have studied the sciences and engineering and continue to keep current (no pun intended) on the technology. It is almost universally agreed that wind and solar require energy storage of some sort on a massive scale. That scale is reachable in principle with current technology, but my favorite licensed engineer in this field says zinc-air is better than lithium, which certainly makes sense to me.


My high school classmate (class of 64) who recently retired from top-level positions in a couple of the leading labs in inertial fusion research (probably the closest to operational) is still decades away.


I hope it’s not from any nuclear plant (3 Mile Island ?), because I remember reading that some isotopes escaped into the atmosphere cause the sky to take on beautiful, unusual colours ! We had a beautiful purpley sky over Edinburgh the other day.


Perhaps in defense of the article it did say “according to environmentalists”, and in a round about way i suppose the argument could be well made that if infrastructure in general was ageing and needed upgrading or replacement, that it would be an ideal time to make the transition to clean and renewable energy, rather than investing again in fossil fuels.