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Dust, fog pushed northern grid close to collapse on Wednesday night
  The northern electricity grid had a close call Wednesday night, with transient faults caused under dense fog conditions leading to outages in 18 transmission lines.


Swift restoration of the lines and simultaneous load reduction by the system operator prevented a cascade tripping that could have caused a flashover and endangered the grid.


Officials said the tripping was largely attributed to the lack of early winter rain. A combination of dirty insulators, atmospheric dust and carbon, along with the dense winter fog forced multiple tripping of lines that could have caused blackouts or brownouts in large parts of the grid.


This phenomenon, which was earlier largely confined to areas in the vicinity of Delhi due to the atmospheric pollution around the capital, has now spread to the northern hinterland, especially Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.


This is mostly due to excessive crop burning in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, leading to carbon in the air adding to the vehicular and industrial pollution. Under dense foggy atmospheric conditions, break down strength of the surface of the porcelain insulator reduces due to the deposit of pollutants over it, triggering an outage.


The most recent incident of this kind took place on January 2, 2010, causing a partial blackout in the northern regional grid, affecting Punjab, Haryana, J&K and Himachal Pradesh. This was triggered by tripping of multiple lines due to transient faults caused under dense fog conditions in the affected areas.