‘Controlled’ power cuts likely as Sun storm threatens national grid

Tuesday, June 14, 2011
By Paul Martin

By Steve Connor
IndependentUK
Monday, 13 June 2011

Officials in Britain and the United States are preparing to make controlled power cuts to their national electricity supplies in response to a warning of a possible powerful solar storm hitting the Earth. In an interview with The Independent, Thomas Bogdan, director of the US Space Weather Prediction Centre, said that controlled power “outages” will protect the National Electricity Grids against damage which could take months or even years to repair should a large solar storm collide with the Earth without any precautions being taken.

Dr Bogdan is in close discussions with scientists in the UK Met Office to set up a second space weather prediction centre in Britain to co-ordinate a global response to a threat viewed seriously by both the US and UK governments. One topic of discussion is how to protect national electricity grids from the immense power surges caused by the geomagnetic storms which happen when highly energetic solar particles collide with the Earth’s magnetic field.

The most vulnerable parts of the grid are the hundreds of transformers connected to power lines many miles long that can experience sudden current surges during a geomagnetic solar storm, Dr Bogdan said. “It points to a potential scenario where large parts of either North America or northern Europe may be without power from between days or weeks, to perhaps months and, in extreme cases, there are estimates that it could last years,” Dr Bogdan said.

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