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Solar Storm Risks Bring Disaster Plans

In this article from the NY Times, it talks about how the solar wind storm in 1989 had damaged Hydro-Québec‘s high-voltage transmission. Causing its system to go down, leading to blacking out millions of people. This storm also caused damage hundreds of miles away from Quebec, at a giant transformer at a nuclear power plant in New Jersey. This was the largest blackout this country has ever seen. In the United States, there are over 200,000 miles of high-voltage lines, which has increased the risk for solar storms. Like Mr. Kappenman said “The larger you make the grid, the larger it acts like an antenna to disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field” from the committee of North American Electric Reliability Corporation. However transformers can be quite costly, some transformers can overheat and damage themselves or cause switch problems. In addition, retrofitting can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. If this storm was worse them the transformer could have been permanently damaged and customers would have gone months without electrically. Transformers themselves cost up to $10 million and now Mr. Kappenman is saying they want to build a device called Capacitors, these capacitors would be the size of a washing machine and would be bypassed in a fraction of a second to allow conventional currents through. In the United States, about 5000 transformers need to be retrofitted. NASA has created a device that is still being experienced with called, Solar Shield. These shields would run data from sun-sensing satellites in simulations. So as of now all we can do is improve our forecast system and to be ready for another solar storm. Even though the sun is 93 million miles away, it only took 92 seconds to damage the transmission system in Quebec, which affected half of United States.

By Gurjinder Singh

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