While this week's solar storm captures the interest of scientists, researchers and people around the world, the Energy Department works with others to monitor the storm's potential impact on the nation's electrical grid. | Image credit: NOAA.
The solar storm that is capturing the interest of scientists, researchers and people around the world is a geomagnetic disturbance from the sun. Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) create a large mass of charged solar energetic particles that escape from the sun’s corona and travel to the earth in between 14 and 96 hours. Working closely with other government agencies, the Energy Department, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and electricity utilities across the U.S. are closely monitoring the situation and evaluating the impact to the nation’s electric grid. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center provides important resources to describe the space environment, including geomagnetic storms, solar radiation storms and radio blackouts.
The Energy Department has been an active partner with NERC in addressing space weather issues such as geomagnetic disturbances (GMD). In September 2009, the Department and NERC co-sponsored the High Impact Low Frequency (HILF) Workshop in Washington, DC. The workshop examined high risk but low frequency events and their possible impact on the bulk power system and recommended the formation of a Geomagnetic Disturbance Task Force of which the Department of Energy is a member. NERC recently released the 2012 Special Reliability Assessment: Effects of Geomagnetic Disturbances on the Bulk Power System report, in which they identified several focus areas including Monitoring and Predicting Space Weather; Modeling Impact to Power Systems; Response Capability and Device Assessment. In addition, the Energy Department is partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on their Sunburst program, a geomagnetic-induced current monitoring system.
As the lead Sector-Specific Agency for the energy sector, the Department closely monitors and assesses the potential impact of events such as tornados, hurricanes and geomagnetic disturbances on the electric grid and other energy systems. When a disruption to the energy infrastructure occurs, the Energy Department serves as the energy focal point for response and restoration efforts, monitoring energy infrastructure and coordinating response across the federal community, state and local governments, and industry. The Energy Department also issues reports on a routine and as-needed basis on developments affecting energy systems and flows.
For more information on the Energy Department’s efforts to enhance the reliability of the Nation’s grid and facilitate recovery from disruptions to the energy supply, visit the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.