USA: An executive order from President Obama on space weather has been announced this month, trying to accelerate the efforts aimed at detecting, analyzing and responding to solar storm threats that could strike the United States.
If a solar storm hits, some U.S. cities could be completely blacked out until the solar storm passes, and the U.S. government is developing strategies to protect electric grid transformers threatened by storm currents.
However, the president's order bypassed the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), the interstate grid security monitor, which has been developing solar storm protections for the grid since 2012, and it seems as an attempt to speed up the 4-year-old FERC/NERC regulatory process, according to some grid officials and experts, reports E&E Publishing.
The most recent FERC GMD order from last month gives transformer owners five more years before all GMD defense devices are required to be in place, allowing time for more research on how very large solar-generated currents would affect various transformer models.
Now, Obama's order directs the secretary of the Department of Energy to create a pilot program to deploy, test and evaluate devices that can shield transformers against dangerous ground currents, as the United States has limited capacity to replace the transformers that move power across the grid. The plan for the pilot project is to be completed within 120 days.
NERC, however, believes the development of GMD standards needs to be based on a thorough understanding of the complex effects of solar disturbances on the Earth and the dangers to transformers, according to NERC’s chief Gerry Cauley.
FERC has already tackled the GMD threat with a two-stage process, initiated in 2012.
"I think we're already on the right track, and we should give NERC and FERC and the industry a chance to implement these standards and the technologies to further develop the science around solar magnetic disturbances," Cauley said.
Whether the new order accelerates that timetable will depend on whether utilities voluntarily sign up to test blocking hardware.
Source: E&E Publishing