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seemslikeadream Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 01:11 AM
Original message
Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts:
Edited on Sat May-02-09 01:18 AM by seemslikeadream
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/04/2012storms

Joseph: Ive been following this topic for almost five years. It wasnt until the report came out that it began to freak me out.


Joseph: The chair of the NASA workshop was Dan Baker at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. Some of his comments, and the comments he approved in the report, are very strong about the potential connection between coronal mass ejections and power grids here on Earth. Theres a direct relationship between how technologically sophisticated a society is and how badly it could be hurt. Thats the meta-message of the report.

I had the good fortune last week to meet with John Kappenman at MetaTech. He took me through a meticulous two-hour presentation about just how vulnerable the power grid is, and how it becomes more vulnerable as higher voltages are sent across it. He sees it as a big antenna for space weather outbursts.

Wired.com: Why is it so vulnerable?

Joseph: Ultra-high voltage transformers become more finicky as energy demands are greater. Around 50 percent already cant handle the current theyre designed for. A little extra current coming in at odd times can slip them over the edge.

The ultra-high voltage transformers, the 500,000- and 700,000-kilovolt transformers, are particularly vulnerable. The United States uses more of these than anyone else. China is trying to implement some million-kilovolt transformers, but Im not sure theyre online yet.

Kappenman also points out that when the transformers blow, they cant be fixed in the field. They often cant be fixed at all. Right now theres a one- to three-year lag time between placing an order and getting a new one.

According to Kappenman, theres an as-yet-untested plan for inserting ground resistors into the power grid. It makes the handling a little more complicated, but apparently isnt anything the operators cant handle. Im not sure hed say these could be in place by 2012, as its difficult to establish standards, and utilities are generally regulated on a state-by-state basis. Youd have quite a legal thicket. But it still might be possible to get some measure of protection in by the next solar climax.

Wired.com: Why cant we just shut down the grid when we see a storm coming, and start it up again afterwards?

Joseph: Power grid operators now rely on one satellite called ACE, which sits about a million miles out from Earth in whats called the gravity well, the balancing point between sun and earth. It was designed to run for five years. Its 11 years old, is losing steam, and there are no plans to replace it.

ACE provides about 15 to 45 minutes of heads-up to power plant operators if somethings coming in. They can shunt loads, or shut different parts of the grid. But to just shut the grid off and restart it is a $10 billion proposition, and there is lots of resistance to doing so. Many times these storms hit at the north pole, and dont move south far enough to hit us. Its a difficult call to make, and false alarms




http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12507


Authors:
Committee on the Societal and Economic Impacts of Severe Space Weather Events: A Workshop, National Research Council
Authoring Organizations


Description

The adverse effects of extreme space weather on modern technology--power grid outages, high-frequency communication blackouts, spacecraft anomalies--are well known and well documented, and the physical processes underlying space weather are also generally well understood. Less well documented and understood, however, are the potential economic and societal impacts of the disruption of critical technological systems by severe space weather.

As a first step toward determining the socioeconomic impacts of extreme space weather events and addressing the questions of space weather risk assessment and management, a public workshop was held in May 2008. The workshop brought together representatives of industry, the government, and academia to consider both direct and collateral effects of severe space weather events, the current state of the space weather services infrastructure in the United States, the needs of users of space weather data and services, and the ramifications of future technological developments for contemporary society's vulnerability to space weather. The workshop concluded with a discussion of un- or underexplored topics that would yield the greatest benefits in space weather risk management.

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/21jan_severespa...






What's the solution? The report ends with a call for infrastructure designed to better withstand geomagnetic disturbances, improved GPS codes and frequencies, and improvements in space weather forecasting. Reliable forecasting is key. If utility and satellite operators know a storm is coming, they can take measures to reduce damagee.g., disconnecting wires, shielding vulnerable electronics, powering down critical hardware. A few hours without power is better than a few weeks.

NASA has deployed a fleet of spacecraft to study the sun and its eruptions. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the twin STEREO probes, ACE, Wind and others are on duty 24/7. NASA physicists use data from these missions to understand the underlying physics of flares and geomagnetic storms; personnel at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center use the findings, in turn, to hone their forecasts.
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canetoad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 02:51 AM
Response to Original message
1. K&R Fascinating
Thanks for posting.
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seemslikeadream Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 10:43 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. You are welcome canetoad
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omega minimo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 03:09 AM
Response to Original message
2. Any studies of the effects of these events on earth life?
Edited on Sat May-02-09 03:15 AM by omega minimo
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HysteryDiagnosis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:08 AM
Response to Original message
3. Distributed generation will eventually catch on, til then we can
worry about what will happen.

http://www.acumentrics.com/industrial-applications-home...
People are demanding more environmentally friendly ways to power and heat their homes. Acumentrics AHEAD combined heat and power (micro-CHP) fuel cell systems offer a reliable, efficient solution. Our residential fuel cell system generates efficient energy that avoids grid transmission losses. Extra electricity can be put back to the grid for net-metering. 1 Excess heat is captured and used for hot water.

This initiative is not yet offered for general availability.
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