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Over 2.4 Billion Needed to Fix US Power Grid

Monday, 17 January 2011
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Over 2.4 billion dollars, that’s $2,500,000,000 US, is needed to fix the United States of America’s Power Grid from total collapse during the 2013 Solar Storm Maximum; currently predicted by The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel.

John Kappenman, CEO of electromagnetic damage consulting company MetaTech, talks to on 4/17/2009 about the possibility of geomagnetic apocalypse and how to stop it.

"We’ve got a big, interconnected grid that spans across the country. Over the years, higher and higher operating voltages have been added to it. This has  escalated our vulnerability to geomagnetic storms. These are not a new thing. They’ve probably been occurring for as long as the sun has been around. It’s just that we’ve been unknowingly building an infrastructure that’s acting more and more like an antenna for geomagnetic storms.

Large currents circulate in the network, coming up from the earth through ground connections at large transformers. We need these for safety reasons, but ground connections provide entry paths for charges that could disrupt the grid.

What we’re proposing is to add some fairly small and inexpensive resistors in the transformers’ ground connections. The addition of that little bit of resistance would significantly reduce the amount of the geomagnetically induced currents that flow into the grid.









In its simplest form, it’s something that might be made out of cast iron or stainless steel, about the size of a washing machine.

We’re still at the conceptual design phase, but we think it’s do-able for $40,000 or less per resistor. That’s less than what you pay for insurance for a transformer.

If you’re talking about the United States, there are about 5,000 transformers to consider this for. The Electromagnetic Pulse Commission, Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, recommended it in a report they sent to Congress last year. We’re talking about $150 million or so. It’s pretty small in the grand scheme of things.

Big power lines and substations can withstand all the other known environmental challenges. The problem with geomagnetic storms is that we never really understood them as a vulnerability, and had a design code that took them into account."

I’m not in the camp that’s certain a big storm will occur in 2012. But given time, a big storm is certain to occur in the future. They have in the past, and they will again. They’re about one-in-400-year events. That doesn’t mean it will be 2012. It’s just as likely that it could occur next week"

Two years later, not much has been done to protect the United States power grid from the 2013 Solar Storm Maximum. Even if the 5,000+ high voltage power transmission transformers are fixed by 2013, this is just part of the solution. Shielding power stations, generators, nuclear power plants, monitoring equipment, computers, commercial and residential transformers would also need to be completed. Bottom line, prepare yourself. It’s not if the US will lose power, it’s when.

Read NASA's Solar Cycle Prediction.

Read The US Executive Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack Report.

Additional Information about John G. Kappenman
John G. Kappenman is a 1976 graduate in Electrical Engineering from South Dakota State University. After graduation, he joined Minnesota Power (1977-1998). In 1998 he joined Metatech as the Manager of the Applied Power Solutions Division. He directs the development of products, services, and consulting that are provided to clientele worldwide, primarily focusing on lightning and Space Weather impacts on electric utilities. He has been an active researcher in power delivery technologies and his primary engineering contribution has been his research work on lightning and magnetic storms and their disruptive effects on electric power systems. He led a utility industry effort to deploy a monitoring satellite that now provides advanced warnings of geomagnetic storms (launched by NASA in August 1997). He has also been a collaborator with EPRI and Global Atmospherics on the development and application of the Fault Analysis and Lightning Location System that will allow economic Location-Centered mitigation of lightning to transmission networks. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and the Power Engineering Society, and is the Past Chairman of the Transmission and Distribution Committee (1994-1996). He currently serves as an Instructor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He has also served a number of times as a faculty member on a University of Minnesota Short Course on EMTP. He has published over 30 papers in a variety of subject areas. He is a recipient of the IEEE Walter Fee Outstanding Young Engineer Award, the IEEE Prize Paper Award, the Westinghouse Nikola Tesla Award and two EPRI Innovator Awards. In February 1997, John Kappenman provided presentations to the US Presidents’ Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection on the potential impact of geomagnetic storms on electric power system reliability and also served as an Invited Lecturer at the International Space University on Space Weather and Impacts on Electric Power Systems. John Kappenman has been appointed to the Organizing Committee and was one of the Lecturers at the NATO Advanced Science Institute on Space Storms and Space Weather Hazards that was held in June 2000.