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Like this article? We recommend Worried Enough Yet? Consider Solar Storms

Worried Enough Yet? Consider Solar Storms

As if EMP was not enough to consider, then how about another threat, let’s say from space? Solar storms would primarily affect the power grid, but are not likely to harm things like computers. Solar storms regularly disrupt communications, albeit temporarily, but they would not be likely to cause harm to communications equipment except for satellites. An extremely large solar storm, however, could induce geomagnetic currents that could destroy a substantial number of the very largest transformers on the power grid. That would be a world class problem resulting in a widespread blackout measured in years. Here is why.

According to the experts, unlike nuclear EMP, a major solar storm will eventually happen. It has before. The last solar storm that could have caused this level of damage happened in 1859. Thankfully this was before the power grid was in place, but it played hell with telegraph lines. There is a general consensus that a solar event that is similar to, or larger than, the 1859 solar superstorm will happen in this century. If it happens as we are set up now, without spares for our largest transformers, a large part of the worldwide power grid (including 70 to 100 percent of the U.S. power grid) will be down for years.

A 2008 study by Metatech found that the time that was required to obtain a replacement for any one of the 370 or so largest transformers in the U.S. was 3 years. In a solar superstorm that affects vulnerable areas of the entire world, delivery times could easily be much longer. The United States, which currently has no capability to manufacture those transformers, will be at the end of a very long waiting line. Oh sure, there are some companies in the U.S. that certainly have the capability to manufacture even the largest transformers. Even so, expansion of manufacturing capability requires a lot of electrical power—power that cannot be delivered after an EMP or solar storm. And again, what if there are no phones to fix the power, and no power to fix the phones?

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