Monday, January 21, 2013

Powerful UK tea drinkers

I was tickled pink when I read this article by Mark Raby (

"Tea time in Britain causes predictable, massive surge in electricity demand

Oh, the British… If you needed another reason to point at them and say they truly are one-of-a-kind, then look no further than the British National Grid electricity transmission network. Only in the UK is the daily regimen so ingrained in society that you can literally set your watch by surges in electrical activity.

Unlike in the US, where the choice of what to watch on TV is vast and almost intimidating, those across the pond are not quite as free-spirited. Even thought the choice of TV channels and streaming options is growing, their love of soaps means millions of people watch the same shows at the same time on a daily basis. As a result, a phenomenon called “TV pickup” has spawned.

Described as an electricity nuance completely unique to Great Britain, it refers to the fact that massive swaths of the nation’s population will all get up at the same time — at the end of a popular TV show — and cause a surge in electricity usage simply by boiling a kettle full of water to make a cup of tea.

So how big is this surge? Well, when the popular soap Eastenders comes to an end five times a week, the grid has to deal with around 1.75 million kettles requiring power at the same time. That’s an additional 3 gigawatts of power for the roughly 3-5 minutes it takes each kettle to boil. So big is the surge that backup power stations have to go on standby across the country, and there’s even additional power made available in France just in case the UK grid can’t cope.

So yes, believe it or not, the engineers manning the British National Grid have to keep an eye on what’s playing on TV so they can brace themselves for the highly predictable surges and make sure the grid remains stable."

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