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What Are We Doing About The Next Big Geomagnetic Storm?

  1. Oct 4, 2010 #1

    As many of you know, the solar sunspot cycle is scheduled to peak again around 2012-2013. With it will come geomagnetic storms that will once again stress our electrical infrastructure.

    I was wondering: what sort of strategies do we have to mitigate against this threat? Do we just power down? Can we figure out how to add it to the grid? Do we just "take it"?

    Is this just an electrical and aerospace engineering problem, or are there others thinking about this as well?

    I have read about "hardening" electrical infrastructure against transients and EMI, but what exactly does this mean?

    Thanks for any input.
    PS I am a 1st year EE with interests in electric power and electromagnetics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 4, 2010 #2
    Power grids are mostly a problem for large systems far north. Canada and europe put a lot of money into improving grid systems since the 80s with cutt outs and surge protection.
    I don't know about the US, since everything is owned by private companies it's unlikely a lot has been put into once in a generation events.

    We rely a lot less on satelite communications than we did 10years ago - but a lot more on GPS. I'm guessing that the original customers of GPS would have specificed them to work in rare bad conditions.
  4. Oct 5, 2010 #3
    I wouldn't be surprised if the US grid went down a few times during the next storm. I live in the NE part of the US and the grid isn't exactly known for being robust or reliable (remember the blackout of 03?). I know I'll be stocking up on a few extra candles and cans of chef-boyardee.
  5. Oct 13, 2010 #4
    2012-2013 ??

    I think the cycle is running a bit late: My guess is nearer 2015-16...

    IIRC, the first big problem is geomagnetic induced current, low-frequency AC that swamps the cores of the big distribution transformers. IIRC, a lot of new breakers etc have been fitted to prevent burn-outs.

    The other issue is 'cascade failure'. As I see it, the networks just have to talk to each other a bit better, and be prepared to 'ring fence' outages rather than go down like dominoes...
  6. Oct 14, 2010 #5
    Just in time for me to graduate...:wink:

    I have read somewhere that power system protection is computationally intensive. Is this true? How so? Is it from CEM, or from control theory calculations?
    I don't have the link. It doesn't matter anyway, the blogger did not say how it was computationally intensive, just that it was.

    Oh, and thanks for the reply.
    IIRC ("If I recall correctly")? That is a new one for me.
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