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The Perfect Solar Storm Disaster?

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posted on May, 2 2006 @ 11:53 PM
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I saw a show on the Discovery Channel the other day discussing the possibility and the fact that an extreme solar storm event will eventually occur. The next solar peak is around 2011. According to reports on the tv show, if the perfect storm so to speak develops, electrical grids could overload blowing up transformers across the US and across the globe throwing us in the dark for months or years. It can take a very long time to restore power on a national or global scale. I imagine the manufacturing plants that make the transformers would need power and then they would have to actually build the transformers which may require power at supplier companies. The tv show stated that these transformers could take months to build. I believe the tv show stated there were only 5 manufacturing plants (within the US at least) and that these transformers ordinarily take months to build each one. I was wondering if they were referring to a special transformer at substations but I wasn't sure about that. I thought there were thousands or millions of transformers scattered across neighborhoods all over the US not just a few big ones like the tv show seemed to be indicating.

Finally the tv show stated that the intensity of the storm would not be fully realized until it was too late to shut down the power stations. I'm just wondering what thoughts anyone may have on this. Were they referring to some kind of special transformers at substations? Could such a perfect storm really kill the electricity across the globe?

The tv show is mentioned near the bottom of this link.
www.livescience.com...
The link says scientifically the show is on the mark but is a bit lacking in the story telling.

Another scenario that knocks out satellites and costs many 10's of billions of dollars would be a less intense storm.
msnbc.msn.com...

However I have been wondering what if we had the perfect solar storm? Our society runs on electricity. The disaster would occur after we lost power and it stayed off for weeks, months or even years. Water, food, and transportation would all be affected. I believe our water would not flow without power at the water plants. Food often requires refrigeration and transportation. Gas stations require power to pump the gas. Could someone develop an automatic electrical switch in the event of an extreme line surge that would automatically shut down the critical transformers? Could these same switches do double duty in the event of an EMP attack from Iran or some other country as well? I'm just looking for some insight.




posted on May, 7 2006 @ 09:25 PM
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If anyone is interested, I believe this episode with the perfect solar storm disaster appears on the Discovery channel again on May 15th at 12 pm.
dsc.discovery.com...

Anyone reading this know something about transformers? I'm still wondering what transformers may take months to build. I may do some searching.


Apparently this tv show may be on tomorrow May 8th. Check your local time.
discoverychannel.ca...


[edit on 7-5-2006 by orionthehunter]



posted on May, 7 2006 @ 09:58 PM
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yeah, i saw this too. but they barely touched on some of the most important aspects of a disaster of this kind: it wouldnt be only one airliner as depicted in the show, but 90% percent of commercial aviation in the affected area. furthermore, ATC systems and comms would go down, as would emergency communications for firefighters, police, paramedics, etc. it would be total chaos and bedlem.

of course, that is the worse case scenario. as far as the transformers are concerned, i'm not very familiar with that aspect of it.



posted on May, 7 2006 @ 10:14 PM
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I suppose everyone is hoping that this will not occur in their lifetime because the fallout will be huge for whoever is around whenever such a storm hits. I know I sure wouldn't want to be on an airplane in such an event. If the information on the tv show was correct, the last major solar storm hit back in the 1800's.



posted on May, 8 2006 @ 07:58 AM
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Well, a plasma storm would essentially function like an EMP. Like an EMP, however, important things are often protected. For example, you wouldn't have to worry about the nuclear plant going into an overload, because all the cement and lead would stop the EMP from penetrating the complex. However, when everything else goes out the Nuclear Plant will detect a sudden drop in power usage, and so will cut out a lot of its power-producing abilities.

Overall, the major worry is that, yeah, things would kinda stop moving as if during a power-outage for a few days (whilst people fix their cars and such), and the transformers that blew would have to be replaced - which I'm sure would be faster than what they described, considering that such plants would be making a fortune off of it and so would hire new workers and such.

Definitely not an end of the world scenario, but a massive inconvenience.



posted on May, 8 2006 @ 08:30 AM
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Originally posted by orionthehunter
I was wondering if they were referring to a special transformer at substations but I wasn't sure about that.


Yeah, they probably were. If it's something ginormous at a substation (or anywhere, actually), that handles gigawatts of energy, then it would get more exposure to radiation coming in, just because of its size alone, and it would, simply, have a higher chance of being destroyed.

The reason these really larger units would take months to build is that: A.) They need to be built perfectly and are probably checked hundreds of times to ensure quality; 2.) They probably have thousands upon thousands, if not millions, of miles of copper wiring inside them, all wrapped up in a tight coil. I'm sure that that would take some time to do.



posted on May, 8 2006 @ 09:20 AM
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Anyone reading this know something about transformers? I'm still wondering what transformers may take months to build. I may do some searching.


Large high voltage transformers take a while to build.
Some of them are the size of a two story double garage and others are larger.
They are complex to an extent and not something a manufacturer can knock out in a few days.
And . . . as expensive as they are, it's too costly to have spares just sitting around.
Generally speaking, large transformers are a custom built deal.

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Finally the tv show stated that the intensity of the storm would not be fully realized until it was too late to shut down the power stations. I'm just wondering what thoughts anyone may have on this. Were they referring to some kind of special transformers at substations?


Power companies subscribe to solar storm watch outfits and get solar storm predictions hours in advance.

If there is a major system wide problem, the system will shut down on it's own within a few seconds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



However, when everything else goes out the Nuclear Plant will detect a sudden drop in power usage, and so will cut out a lot of its power-producing abilities.


A Nuke plant is like any other generation station - except for it's method of generating heat - and simply backs down to compensate for the lesser load.
(Or cranks in some throttle if the load increases.)

Nuke plants have several on-site cold start units to carry auxiliaries if the generation unit trips off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Interesting reading about the 1859 solar flare.

Solar Flare Information

Grid Information during Solar Flares

I question the comment about re-starting a system from zero and having the load go to 600 times the normal load.
My experience when energizing lines that have a lot of rotary load set to come on is that the load may go to 50% of the previous load and taper back to normal in less than a half minute.
(Summer heat has a lot of rotary equipment running - A/C, fans etc. Winter is mostly resistive load, lights etc.)

Other sites about solar flares I checked use wildly overstated amp flow figures.
One site in particular calling for 13,000 + amps on a distribution level line.
(12kv - 16kv)
These lines usually carry 400-600 amps at a maximum.
Other basic electricity comments are incorrect as well which leads me to wonder how accurate their comments about solar flares are.

The two sites mentioned above - except for the 600 times bit noted - are reasonably accurate.



posted on May, 9 2006 @ 09:32 PM
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Thanks for the info and links. I better understand the situation. Apparently it would cost the utilities billions of dollars (per the information in the link about grid information on solar flares) to protect all of the vulnerable equipment. Therefore the utilities are relying on contingency strategies in the hopes of avoiding a major prolonged power failure. Hopefully we won't have a major solar storm. I still remember a major blackout lasting over a week or two for some due to just a little bit of ice on the trees. This may be one of those things that has to hit hard before big bucks are spent to insure against future occurrences. (just my opinion)

If the power was out in large areas of the US or the world for months, I can't even imagine how much that would cost the US or the global economy.



posted on May, 10 2006 @ 11:27 AM
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Originally posted by orionthehunter
I still remember a major blackout lasting over a week or two for some due to just a little bit of ice on the trees. This may be one of those things that has to hit hard before big bucks are spent to insure against future occurrences. (just my opinion)

If the power was out in large areas of the US or the world for months, I can't even imagine how much that would cost the US or the global economy.



Looking at it from the utility point of view, ice on trees probably took out local distribution lines.
Not a major blackout for the most part - although a pain in the backside for those served by that/those line/lines.

Major blackouts are when the transmission system - grid - goes down.

In the case of many lines down due to icing, lines have to be repaired/rebuilt before they can be re-energized and that takes a while.

Utilities have a mutal aid pact with neighboring utilities.
Adjacent ones will call for aid from a neighboring utility - IE: PG&E a Central/Northern California utility receives aid from SCE, a Southern California utility with equipment etc. into the lower reaches of Central California, out past Palm Springs as well as generation units out of state.
SCE in fact sent crews to Kauai the smallest of the Hawaiian islands to help rebuild after hurricane Iniki.
They were sent to Florida as well after a hurricane struck there a few years back.

Most of the time linemen and similar personnel are the responders, but now and then, power station electricians and test personnel will respond if there is power station damage in excess of what the afflicted utility can handle on its own.

Like the government and its many war and potential war plans, utilities have their own set of plans that are constantly reviewed as well as personnel are trained to respond to particular major problems in the desired way.

Some areas that have been around for a while - older towns etc. - have old poles and small conductors.
Newer areas have new and stronger poles etc. with heavier duty conductors as well as having - expensive - underground systems at the distribution voltage levels.

Generally, this is where the money is spent to beef up the system.
And like you'd think it takes a while.



posted on May, 10 2006 @ 07:24 PM
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... ungh... and I suppose it will be us poor robotics and electronics engineers who get to de-gauss and reset everything right?

I hope this doesnt happen... I dont need to be THAT busy.



posted on May, 10 2006 @ 07:31 PM
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Originally posted by johnsky
... ungh... and I suppose it will be us poor robotics and electronics engineers who get to de-gauss and reset everything right?

I hope this doesnt happen... I dont need to be THAT busy.



Why not see if your company will invest in a UPS unit?

Or, if the company is big enough and you have a sufficient heat source, install your own generation unit.

Many hospitals have their own generation units with lines from the electric utility as backups.
When the generator/generators go down, the changeover to commercial power is automatic.



posted on May, 13 2006 @ 01:39 AM
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Actually I believe it's just a matter of when not if a major or perfect solar storm occurs. I think we are all hoping it's not in our lifetimes though. If something like this ever happened, I believe it would be extremely hard for me to get any time off after the power was restored back to the manufacturing company I work at. However I would be more concerned with a major disaster for a while with airplanes dropping out of the sky, no power to pump gas at gas stations, no water if the water plants don't have power to pump water, and no transportation and refrigeration for the food industry. It would be a mess and struggle to live through a perfect solar storm IMO. Of course this is the worse case scenario.

This past winter, I got to experience what it would be like driving through an area at night that has a total blackout after about 1 million people lost power due to a little bit of ice on the trees in the carolinas. It's a lot more dangerous than I thought. You don't necessarily notice intersections that used to have traffic lights if it's pitch dark and could very easily drive right through before you notice. That wouldn't be safe if anyone else was around. I don't think many Americans are prepared for any power outage lasting longer than a few hours.



posted on Jan, 7 2009 @ 09:02 AM
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A new study has been released showing the effects of a powerful solar storm would be devestating to todays infrastructure, particularily the power grids.

National Academy of Sciences - Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts


POWER GRIDS IN PERIL: The National Academy of Sciences has released an important new report detailing how geomagnetic storms could damage the infrastructure of modern society. An area of particular vulnerability is power grids.........



posted on Jan, 10 2009 @ 02:34 PM
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reply to post by stikkinikki
 


Shameless bump of this thread and the updated article I posted on the 7th of this month. Pretty amazing what could happen to our infrastructure. Good to know how to live on your own while the grid is repaired over a few years.



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