Solar storms are a naturally occurring phenomenon where the sun releases solar flares, energetic particles and/or coronal mass ejections (CMEs). When solar storms are directed toward Earth, they can produce geo-magnetically inducted currents (GICs) in the ground, which can impact the electric grid and potentially cause permanent damage to critical grid components, such as high-voltage power transformers. Currently there is limited capability to forecast GIC impacts on a local level.
S&T’s Critical Infrastructure team is working with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to develop tools and models to forecast localized GIC impacts in the power grid. This localized forecasting capability will provide utility operators with the information they need to make swift operational decisions for protecting the grid. This can include canceling maintenance work or re-routing load. Utilities will also be informed when it is considered safe to resume normal operations.