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Seminar 4

July 10, 2007

1:00 to 2:00 PM

Electric Power Grid Vulnerability to Geomagnetic Storms

John Kappenman - Metatech Corp.

"In late October 2003 one of the largest outbreaks of intense solar activity on record was observed. Several Large Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s) and their associated plasma slammed into the earth’s magnetosphere at speeds of nearly five million miles an hour. Extremely large geomagnetic storms could have been possible but were largely avoided only through some fortuitous combinations of orientation of embedded plasma field upon its arrival at the Earth. Only minor disruptions were observed for the most part, with the exception of a brief blackout in southern Sweden. Should this be reassurance that our power systems are hardened enough to meet the challenge?

Space Weather and the resulting geomagnetic storms are associated with ejection of charged particles from the Sun, which after colliding with the Earth’s magnetosphere will produce significant disturbances in the normally quiescent geomagnetic field at the Earth's surface. These disturbances have caused catastrophic impacts to technology systems in the past (e.g., the power blackout in Quebec in March 1989). More importantly, as detailed examinations have been undertaken concerning the interaction of geomagnetic storm environments with power grids and similar infrastructures, the realization has developed that these infrastructures are becoming more vulnerable to disruption from electromagnetic interactions for a wide variety of reasons. This trend line suggests that even more severe impacts can occur in the future for reoccurrences of large storms. This presentation will explore threat assessment efforts underway within the US in order to provide a broad perspective on the topic."

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John G. Kappenman serves as Division Manager of the Applied Power Division of Metatech Corp. He directs the development of products, services, and consulting that are provided to clientele world-wide and primarily focusing on Geomagnetic Disturbances & Space Weather, Lightning, and substation and power system engineering and related specialty products. Prior to this he was with Minnesota Power for over 20 years. In March 1997, Mr. Kappenman was invited by the Presidents Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection to brief the Commission on the “The Impact of Space Weather on Power Systems and their Operation”. Mr. Kappenman has also served as a member of the Science Advisory Panel in July 2000 to the NOAA Space Environment Center. Mr. Kappenman has presented testimony before the US House Science Committee in October 2003 on the importance of geomagnetic storm forecasting for the electric power industry. Mr. Kappenman is one of the principle investigators under contract with the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP Commission). The EMP Commission was established by Congress under the provisions of the Floyd D. Spence Defense Authorization Act of 2001, Public Law 106-398, Title XIV. The EMP Commission was chartered to conduct a study of the potential consequences of a high altitude nuclear detonation on the domestic and military infrastructure and to issue a report containing its findings and recommendations to the Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director, FEMA. Mr. Kappenman is a member of the Editorial Advisory Committee to the AGU International Journal of Space Weather. He is one of the founders and current Chairperson of the Commercial Space Weather Interest Group. He is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Power Engineering Society, and has served as the Chairman of the IEEE PES Transmission and Distribution Committee (1994-1996).