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Communications Earth Networking Power Space Hardware

Power Companies Brace For Solar Storms 111

Hugh Pickens writes "Three large explosions from the sun over the past few days have prompted U.S. government scientists to caution users of satellite, telecommunications and electric equipment to prepare for possible disruptions over the next few days that could affect communications and GPS satellites, leave thousands without power for weeks to months, and might even produce an aurora visible as far south as Minnesota and Wisconsin. 'The concern is if the electric grid lost a number of transformers during a single storm, replacing them would be difficult and time-consuming,' says Rich Lordan, senior technical executive for power delivery and utilization at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The largest solar storm in recorded history was in 1859, when communications infrastructure was limited to telegraphs. Some telegraph operators reported electric shocks, papers caught fire, and the Northern Lights appeared as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. The first of the three solar explosions from the sun already passed the Earth on Thursday with little impact and the second is passing the Earth now and 'seems to be stronger.' "We'll have to see what happens over the next few days," says space weather scientist Joseph Kunches. '[The third storm] could exacerbate the disturbance in the Earth's magnetic field caused by the second (storm) or do nothing at all.'"
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Power Companies Brace For Solar Storms

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 08, 2011 @08:24AM (#37020682)

    The frequency and alarm with which these "OMG!!! Solar storm coming!!!" announcements are made, and the almost total lack of anything perceptibly happening, is quickly becoming a boy-who-cried-wolf situation. It's rather like tornado sirens going off just because there's a nasty storm dropping hail... it happens so frequently that everyone just ignores them, and what good is there in an early warning system if people have been conditioned to disregard it?

  • Then fix it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arlet ( 29997 ) on Monday August 08, 2011 @08:28AM (#37020710)

    Why are the power companies warning us ? There's nothing we can do. It's their responsibility to keep the grid running, not ours.

    If it takes so long to get a replacement transformer, they should have ordered a couple years ago, and kept them as spares.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 08, 2011 @09:10AM (#37021042)

    It certainly could be shielded - I believe a lot of military hardware is, but it is similar to earthquake proofing buildings in that it is hideously expensive. So without government regulation (evil, evil regulation...), companies that run on profits will certainly not spend the money to protect their systems for an event that might happen once every 100 (?) years. Considering that they aren't able (or willing) to spend the money to improve the infrastructure to deal with 'normal' use (cascading blackouts anyone?)...

    And even if they were - to what extend do you need to proof it? A 8 magnitude quake (to extend the earthquake comparison)? 9? 10?

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972