Protecting the Grid from Solar Storms

Courtesy Science@NASA, Author: Dr. Tony Phillips

“Every hundred years or so, a solar storm comes along so potent it fills the skies of Earth with blood-red auroras, makes compass needles point in the wrong direction, and sends electric currents coursing through the planet’s topsoil. The most famous such storm, the Carrington Event of 1859, actually shocked telegraph operators and set some of their offices on fire. A 2008 report by the National Academy of Sciences warns that if such a storm occurred today, we could experience widespread power blackouts with permanent damage to many key transformers.

“What’s a utility operator to do?

“A new NASA project called “Solar Shield” could help keep the lights on.

“‘Solar Shield is a new and experimental forecasting system for the North American power grid,’ explains project leader Antti Pulkkinen, a Catholic University of America research associate working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. ‘We believe we can zero in on specific transformers and predict which of them are going to be hit hardest by a space weather event.'”


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