FIGURE 7.2 A map showing the at-risk EHV transformer capacity (estimated at ~365 large transformers) by state for a 4800 nT/min geomagnetic field disturbance at 50° geomagnetic latitude. Regions with high percentages of at-risk capacity could experience long-duration outages that could extend multiple years. SOURCE: J. Kappenman, Metatech Corp., The Future: Solutions or Vulnerabilities?” presentation to the space weather workshop, May 23, 2008.

FIGURE 7.2 A map showing the at-risk EHV transformer capacity (estimated at ~365 large transformers) by state for a 4800 nT/min geomagnetic field disturbance at 50° geomagnetic latitude. Regions with high percentages of at-risk capacity could experience long-duration outages that could extend multiple years. SOURCE: J. Kappenman, Metatech Corp., The Future: Solutions or Vulnerabilities?” presentation to the space weather workshop, May 23, 2008.

acted to inadvertently escalate the risks from space weather to this critical infrastructure. Kappenman stated that procedures based on K-index-style alerts provide very poor descriptions of the impulsive disturbance environments and lead to uncertainties about the adequacy and efficacy of operational procedures during large storms. He offered several solutions for the future. With respect to the entire grid, remedial measures to reduce GIC levels are needed and are cost-effective. The installation of supplemental transformer neutral ground resistors to reduce GIC flows is relatively inexpensive, has low engineering trade-offs, and can produce 60-70 percent reductions of GIC levels for storms of all sizes. Additional research work is already under way by the EMP Commission in this area. Kappenman noted that improved situational awareness for power grid operators is needed and is readily available (i.e., with an emphasis on disturbance environments/GIC levels instead of ambiguous K/G indices). In addition, regional system operators require initial and continuing training to understand their assigned roles and responsibilities in protecting the power system during solar events using new tools.

Economic and societal costs attributable to impacts of geomagnetic storms could be of unprecedented levels. For example, consider the following cost estimates:

  • August 14, 2003, Northeast blackout: $4 billion to $10 billion,3

  • Hurricane Katrina: $81 billion to $125 billion,4,5

  • Future severe geomagnetic storm scenario: $1 trillion to $2 trillion in the first year, and

  • Depending on damage, full recovery could take 4 to 10 years.6



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