by Michael Salla, Ph.D.
Honolulu Exopolitics Examiner
June 2, 2009

from TheExaminer Website




“Renewable energy sources,” according to a leading national electric grid expert, can be an “important lifeline":

for areas in the U.S. where the electric grid has collapsed from severe solar storms.

John Kappenman has 32 years experience in the electric power industry, and spoke at a Space Weather workshop convened by the National Research Council (NRC) in May 2008 to understand “the societal and economic impacts of severe space weather” on the U.S. electric grid.


One of the themes discussed at the workshop was the impact of increased solar activity as Solar Cycle 24 becomes most active around 2012.


Kappenman’s findings were incorporated into a report (Severe Space Weather Events) later published by the National Research Council in December 2008.



President Obama inspects solar energy panel at Nellis AFB.

Photo: AP



More recently he spoke at the Space Weather Enterprise Forum 2009 held from May 19-20.


Kappenman’s primary concern was that in a severe solar storm electrical transformers can be damaged causing power blackouts for extended periods. Repairs to the damaged electrical grid could range from several weeks or months in some cases.


In more extreme cases involving badly damaged transformers, according to Kappenman, repair times could extend up to a staggering “four to ten years.”


On June 2, I spoke to Kappenman to get his insights on:

  • how real the threat was to the electric grid from solar storms peaking around 2012

  • how the threat can dealt with by consumers and state authorities responsible for electric grid regulation

  • whether development of renewable energy sources offered a possible solution

I began by asking Keappenman about NASA’s announcement in December 2008 of the discovery of a giant breach in the magnetosphere allowing up to 20 times the normal rate of solar plasma to enter into the Earth’s atmosphere.


NASA’s announcement revealed that that the breach would last for the full 11 year period of Solar Cycle 24 (approx. 2008-2019) thereby making the electric grid very vulnerable to any Coronal Mass Ejections directly aimed at it from the sun.


Kappenman acknowledged that NASA’s announcement of a large breach in the magnetosphere added,

“another mechanism to how large storms could unfold… and could conceivably cause problems for electric power grids.”

If scientists were already concerned about the electric grid vulnerabilities, the December NASA announcement only compounded the threat level. Kappenman is not a big believer in 2012 being a pivotal year given that is the year the sun is scheduled to become most active in terms of sunspots.


In responding to a recent NASA estimate that Solar Cycle 24 would not be as active as first thought around 2012, he said:

“a violent active region is probably just as likely to occur next month as it is in 2012 or 2013.”

Kappenman is cited in the NRC report as saying that the most vulnerable part of the electric grid are electrical transformers:

[P]revious well-documented cases have involved heating failures that caused melting and burn-through of large-amperage copper windings and leads in these transformers.


These multi-ton apparatus generally cannot be repaired in the field, and if damaged in this manner, they need to be replaced with new units, which have manufacture lead times of 12 months or more.

(p. 77)

The NRC report further cited Kapperman’s estimate that the financial cost for severe space storms was “$1 trillion to $2 trillion during the first year alone” (p. 4). The financial costs for a state the size of Hawaii has been estimated to be approximately one billion dollars a week.

The most exposed part of the U.S. electrical grid would be the high voltage grid linking the 48 contiguous states that would act as a large antennae for the Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GIC) that would threaten large transformers.


Kappenman pointed out that states that operate with lower voltages and smaller sized electrical grids such as Hawaii,

“would be much less impacted than the mainland US power grid.”

Any damages to the Hawaiian grid system might nevertheless suffer from delays in receiving replacement parts due to higher priority given to more severely damaged grids on the U.S. mainland.

One solution advocated by Kappenman for the threat posed to transformers by high GICs is to develop resistors to prevent geo-magnetically induced currents flowing into electric transformers.


In an interview with Wired Science he said:

“What we’re proposing is to add some fairly small and inexpensive resistors in the transformers’ ground connections. The addition of that little bit of resistance would significantly reduce the amount of the geomagnetically induced currents that flow into the grid.”

In our June 2 interview he said that the resistors were effective in “reducing GIC levels on average by about 60%.”


That would eliminate the threat to many transformers “considered at risk” but he pointed out “that there should be additional safety measures considered as well.” These include “independent power sources and the ability to operate isolated from the power grid.”

I asked what importance he placed in developing feed-in capacities using renewable energy sources for households and small businesses as means of protection from a collapsed electric grid.


He first pointed out the challenge in going beyond the approximate 3% of renewable energies currently used. He emphasized the need to mitigate potential damage to the electric grid itself since this is how most electricity is transmitted in the U.S.


He then went on to say:

“even if you have minimum amounts of renewable energy sources they could become an important lifeline… should a big disturbance occur and lots of damage occur to the U.S. grid with the potential of many months or several years of restoration.”

In explaining how off-the grid energy sources offer a layer of protection against electric grid collapse, Kappenman responded:

... these are lifeline sources that could be looked at... things that could be used to operate very important services like water treatment, food processing, things like this.


Because the immediate concerns you are going to have is losing potable water in a matter of hours, you are going to lose perishable food in a day or less, you are going to lose most ability to communicate in a matter of 72 hours or so, almost everything that we depend on is interdependent on reliable electric power.

Kappenman finally pointed out that,

“planning and public policy can begin to ask these questions and start to assess what are available options under these scenarios.”

He pointed out that large solar storms are,

“a 100 % probable event. They have happened before, they will happen again it’s just a matter of time, not a matter of if.”

The possibility of solar storms bombarding the Earth and taking down the electrical grid in the U.S. and other countries for extended periods needs urgent consideration.


Regulation of electric utilities occurs at a state level in the U.S. State legislatures and Public Utility Commissions need to immediately start studying the impacts of severe solar storms and introduce public policy to deal with their impact on local electric grids.


Developing renewable energy generation sources that are not dependent on the electrical grid and include non-conventional technologies such as "free energy generators" offer an important lifeline in case of electric grid collapse.


Governments at the local, state and federal levels need to consider legislation that will ensure that essential services, industry and consumer needs are safeguarded in the event of an electric grid collapse for extended periods.


T.Henry Moray
October 25, 2008

from YouTube Website