Energy regulators move to protect electric grid from solar storms

Energy regulators move to protect electric grid from solar storms
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Regulators overseeing the country’s electric grid want to set new rules to better protect it from disturbances caused by solar storms.

Solar storms can cause geomagnetic disturbances, which could harm transmission equipment like electric transformers and cause widespread blackouts and other electricity problems.

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That concerns the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees bulk electricity transmission.

The body voted Thursday morning to formally propose standards for utilities to foresee solar storm disturbances and build in systems to reduce the resulting problems.

“These events are considered to be ‘high impact, low frequency’ events, but can have potentially severe, widespread effects on reliable grid operation, including blackouts and damage to critical or vulnerable equipment,” FERC said in a statement.

The Thursday proposal would require transmission systems to assess their vulnerability to solar storms, figure out their acceptable voltage states during those storms and reassess their vulnerability every five years.

“If the assessment indicates that a system does not meet the performance requirements, the entity would have to develop a corrective action plan addressing how the requirements will be met,” the agency said.

The latest proposal is part of FERC’s years-long cooperation with the North American Electric Reliability Corp. to address grid vulnerability to solar storms.