The details don't matter, just that a large fraction of people have died (let's say 90%) and society has completely collapsed. It's only a year or two later, and people have started to gather together again and attempt to build communities. The leader of a large-ish (~200) band of people has a plan to rebuild as best as possible, and so plans to have everyone take up residence in a nearby city that is built near one of the US' hydroelectric power plants. This city has specifically been chosen so that the nearby hydroelectric plant can be restored and power can be available to the city.
Obviously there is a lot that can go wrong with this plan, but I'm only interested in one aspect of it. I'm handwaving away some details:
- Assume that the survivors manage to restore the plant
- Assume that the survivors are able to keep it functional for some extended period of time
Given those things, my question is:
Can a standalone hydroelectric plant actually be useful and provide power to a nearby city in otherwise modern USA? If not, are there any steps that could be taken to make it work?
The reason I'm uncertain is things like:
- Our power grid is quite complicated, and it isn't obvious to me if modern day power plants can even really operate on their own
- I'm not quite sure if power plants are actually designed in such a way that they provide their own power - I wouldn't be surprised if an external power source (even if just generators) is required at various parts
- Presuming that the plant can operate on its own, I'm not sure if that means it can power a city that is likely connected to many other places in the grid. You might end up effectively attempting to power half the nation, which obviously isn't possible.
- It also seems likely that the plant wouldn't be tied directly or even closely into a city anyway, and so getting power to the city would require a major overhaul of infrastructure.
In terms of power usage, the plant itself should be more than sufficient. Looking at the list of US hydroelectric plants, even the smallest generates roughly 1.3GW of electricity. We're talking roughly a couple hundred survivors, and even if they each have their own house and use electricity at standard US rates (peak at roughly 20kW) that still leaves room for tens of thousands of houses. Presumably only logistics will be an issue for our survivors for quite a while.