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2020-07-15, 15:00: Dr. K. Forbes (Catholic University of America)

Dr. Kevin Forbes

Catholic University of America, USA

Geomagnetic Activity and the Challenge to Electric Power Reliability during Solar Cycle 23: Evidence from the Netherlands


A clear demonstration that solar activity can give rise to geomagnetic storms that are harmful occurred on 13 March 1989 when a very intense geomagnetic storm contributed to the collapse of the Hydro-Quebec power system in Canada. The dominant view is that the power grid’s vulnerability arises because geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) can lead to inadequately low levels of “reactive power.” Voltage collapse due to reactive power deficiencies have contributed to a significant number of blackouts. Reactive power issues are most likely when transmission distances are long. Under this view, electric power systems without long transmission lines (e.g., The Netherlands) are largely immune from the effects of space weather.

This paper examines whether the challenge posed by space weather to the power grid is broader in scope than currently recognized. The analysis focuses on the power grid in the Netherlands. The analysis examines the relationship between geomagnetic activity and the deployments initiated by the system operator to balance the system in terms of the demand vs. supply of real power. The possible contribution of geomagnetic activity to the deployments is examined using a time-series econometric model. The model is estimated using 15-minute operating data over the period 1 January 2002 through 31 December 2003. The overall findings indicate that the scope of the challenge posed by space weather to the operations of the electric power system is understated by the existing paradigm.