FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2013
NEW LAW REQUIRES MAINE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION TO EXAMINE ELECTRIC GRID THREATS FROM SOLAR STORMS AND ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE
MAINE LEADS THE NATION IN PROTECTING ITS ELECTRIC GRID
AUGUSTA ME—The State of Maine is the first in the nation to mandate a study of electric grid threats from solar storms and man-made electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A bill directing the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to examine measures to mitigate the effects of geomagnetic disturbances caused by solar storms and nuclear electromagnetic pulse on the state’s electric grid transmission system was recently passed by a unanimous vote of the Maine House of Representatives and a 32-3 vote in the Senate. This new law requires the PUC to identify the most vulnerable components of the State’s transmission system, and also identify potential protective measures, their costs, and probable timeframes to implement.
When sunspots erupt, they send masses of charged particles toward the earth. These particles interact with the earth’s magnetic field causing so-called “geomagnetic disturbances”. Solar storms can induce harmful currents in high voltage transmission lines. In March 1989, a relatively small solar storm plunged the Province of Quebec into a widespread grid blackout affecting six million electric customers. According to multiple U.S. Government reports, a five to ten-times larger solar storm—a historical example being the Carrington Event of 1859—could cause a years-long blackout for the State of Maine and much of the eastern United States.
Current operational procedures of ISO-New England for solar storms are inadequate to protect the Maine and larger New England electric grids, according to testimony heard at a March 21 work session of the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee of the Maine State Legislature.
A nuclear bomb detonated high in the atmosphere could send an electromagnetic pulse downward and permanently damage electric grid transformers, according to reports from the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
“I am proud that Maine has taken the lead on an issue that paralysis in Congress has let go unattended for too long,” said Representative Andrea Boland of Sanford, sponsor of the bill. “Maine is particularly vulnerable to solar storms, due to its northerly latitude, geology, and proximity to the ocean. Legislators, the PUC, and the Governor understood what the experts were telling them, and responded.”
The $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Program (MPRP), a high voltage transmission system upgrade, would substantially increase the risk of long-term electric grid blackout from solar storms, according to John Kappenman, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the effects of sunspot eruptions on power grids. “While the new transmission lines add capacity, most of them parallel existing lines and terminate near existing substations,” said Mr. Kappenman. “As a result, the redundant lines could result in a near-doubling of harmful currents induced by these storms in transmission lines in Maine. The antenna will be twice as big, and the storm impact to the power grid is likely to be twice as severe.”
“Maine has narrowly missed blackouts due to solar storms, with numerous ‘trips’ of critical grid equipment,” said Thomas Popik, Chairman of the Foundation for Resilient Societies, a non-profit group that conducts scientific studies on solar storms and their effect on electric grids. “Our recent study of the New England grid shows that generation and transmission capacity likely to be lost during a solar storm is several times the available reserves. We look forward to the upcoming study of the Maine PUC on this important issue.”
“Maine has accomplished in less than six months what Washington has failed to accomplish in years. For a half decade, Washington has tried, and failed, to pass the GRID Act, the SHIELD Act, and other legislation to protect the national electric grid and the lives of millions of the American people from a natural or nuclear EMP Catastrophe,” exulted Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a Congressional Advisory Board. “Now Maine has succeeded where Washington has failed and is setting an excellent example that other states can follow by launching state initiatives to protect their own electric grids, instead of waiting for the leadership that Washington seems no longer able to provide. It is perhaps symptomatic of how deeply corrupt and incompetent Washington has become that billions of dollars are spent snooping through the phone calls and e-mails of average Americans, frisking grandmas and babies at airports, and living in fear of the next Underwear Bomber, while Washington ignores the truly existential threat from EMP, and leaves it up to the State of Maine to take the lead on EMP protection. In this Electronic Age, in this era of Cyber Warfare, the passage of LD-131 is akin to the charge of the 20th Maine at Little Roundtop during the Battle of Gettysburg that saved the Union. Once again the brave little State of Maine has come to the Nation’s rescue. I would add that protection of the Maine electric grid from EMP would make it the ideal site to locate the new high-tech military base on the East Coast to support the expansion of the National Missile Defense recently authorized by the House Armed Services Committee.”
For more background, the following information and contacts are provided:
Representative Andrea Boland of Sanford, Maine is available for interviews on the newly passed bill. Email Ms. Boland at email@example.com, phone 207-432-7893.
John Kappenman of Storm Analysis Consultants is available for interviews on technical aspects of solar storm effects on electric grids. Email Mr. Kappenman at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 218-391-4015.
The research report of the Foundation for Resilient Societies, “Solar Storm Risks for Maine and the New England Electric Grid, and Potential Protective Measures,” can be found on the foundation’s website, www.resilientsocieties.org. Mr. Popik of the Foundation for Resilient Societies is available for interviews on costs of solar storm protection. Email Mr. Popik at email@example.com , phone 603-321-1090.The Foundation for Resilient Societies does not endorse any specific legislative action in the State of Maine, or in other states, or in the U.S. Congress.
Dr Peter Pry of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security has written a recent article on protection of Maine’s electric grid from solar storms, “Maine’s Battle to Save America,” which can be found on the Family Security Matters website. Dr. Pry is available for interviews on how Maine’s effort to protect its grid may make it a prime site for a missile defense system. Email Dr. Pry at firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 301-481-4715.
The full text of the bill can be found at: