Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are Minor and Middle-Scale Solar Storms More Dangerous For Power Transmission Systems Than Generally Thought

Vulnerability of power grids is a hot question (photo: Jukka Seppälä/Creator's Fingerprints)


When I read the year 2009 US-study of the vulnerability of power grids in the USA, ( METATECH: http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/geomag.pdf ) I found one quite strange remark made by the authors of the report: the large transformers of nuclear power plants had been several times getting fire or exploded just a few days after or during a geo-magnetic storm caused by the sun. The power companies denied the statistical correlation between the solar storms and failure of NPP transformers. But the study saw it to be quite obvious.

Yesterday when I did some google-searching for the several days continuing mild geo-magnetic storm if there was any damage to the NPPs transformers in the news, I found out a strange thing. There were masses of news of minor transformer fires and explosions earlier this year and I got an idea. If I read these news and find out the exact date and time of these incidents I can compare them with the information of a russian website  (TESIS:  http://www.tesis.lebedev.ru/en/magnetic_storms.html?m=1&d=7&y=2012 ) that have statistics of all recent geomagnetic storms. And to my surprise most of the transformer fires occurred just during or shortly after relatively high geo-magnetic activity. I haven't seen any studies about this correlation between solar storms or risen geo-magnetic activity and the transformer fires but after what I found out with my non-scientific quick-search, it would be interesting to know if there really exists a correlation. And if such exists, what could be done to protect power grids and also the smaller transformers from exploding or getting fire because of solar activity. Many homes, cars and lorries were destroyed  because of these fires and thousands and again thousands of people were varying times without power. Economical costs can be quite high and sometimes the loss of human lives can not be avoided because of these fires.

So, I'm waiting for the power companies or state officials to take the initiative to find out if there is a hidden danger in these minor solar storms also. Only time will tell if someone hears my call.


JPS

P.S. In the USA the officials and energy industry have taken seriously the warnings of solar storms and the manufacturing of large power transformers is beginning new in US factories. The new model under development is going to offer a revolutionary one week replacing time when the older models took months or years to replace. The new (2012) governemental study of power grid security in US is worth reading.

LINK - ENERGY.GOV: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/Large%20Power%20Transformer%20Study%20-%20June%202012_0.pdf

JPS

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