FERC Proposes Rule to Address Threat to the Power Grid From Geomagnetic Disturbances

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On October 18, 2012, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) proposing to direct the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop one or more Reliability Standards that address the impact of geomagnetic disturbances on the reliability of the bulk-power system. The NOPR proposes an aggressive timeline for the development of the Reliability Standard(s), with initial Reliability Standard(s) due within 90 days of the effective date of a final rule.

The NOPR was prompted by concerns that the interaction of the Earth’s magnetic field and solar events can cause low frequency geomagneticallyinduced currents (GICs) to flow along the surface of the Earth and into the bulk-power system. GICs can interfere with normal system operations and can potentially lead to outages and cascading blackouts. Specifically, GICs can cause transformer cores to become “saturated,” which can cause internal components to overheat, produce harmonic distortions, and cause the transformer to substantially increase its absorption of reactive power.

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