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Power

What We Can Do About Massive Solar Flares 224

Reader resistant sends in an update to our discussion a month back on the possibility of violent space weather destroying power grids worldwide during the upcoming solar cycle. Wired is running an interview with Lawrence Joseph, author of "Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End," and John Kappenman, CEO of electromagnetic damage consulting company MetaTech. The piece brings two new threads to the discussion: the recently discovered presence of an unusually large hole in Earth's geomagnetic shield, magnifying our vulnerability, and possible steps we can take over the next few years to make the power grid more robust against solar flares and coronal mass ejections. There's also that whole Mayan 2012 thing. Quoting John Kapperman: "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 its simplest form, it's something that might be made out of cast iron or stainless steel, about the size of a washing machine. ...we think it's do-able for $40,000 or less per resistor. That's less than what you pay for insurance for a transformer. [In the US] there are about 5,000 transformers to consider this for. ... We're talking about $150 million or so. It's pretty small in the grand scheme of things."

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