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Brits to shut grid for solar flare by Sallie Don and Amos Aikman
Sunday, June 19th 2011, 2:21 PM EDT
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
BRITAIN is preparing to invoke emergency powers to turn off its electricity to shield the country from the worst effects of the biggest solar flare in 150 years.

The British government has been warned that a massive surge of energy from the sun could hit the Earth in the next 18 months. In a worst-case scenario, it could blow out the national grid and leave parts of the country without electricity for months.

Australian electricity experts are not convinced the solar flare will have anywhere near the catastrophic effects predicted in Britain and think any electromagnetic surge will go largely unnoticed.

Head of electrical engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney, Jianguo Zhu, said communication networks such as the internet would be the systems most likely to suffer from any solar flare. "The power grid is run by a computer network, which could be affected by the surge, which may cause blackouts," Professor Zhu told The Australian.

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"But the design of these systems should really have taken this into account, so any effect would be diminished."

Scientists have warned that Britain could be disabled by a solar flare five times more powerful than one in 1989 that plunged six million people in Quebec into darkness and caused power disruption as far as California.

The most extreme form of solar storm could knockout computers and the banking system, throw satellites off course and disrupt GPS technology, navigation and defence systems.

British Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is so worried about the prospect of a category-five solar storm, the most severe, he has told officials to work with Washington to draw up emergency plans. Turning off the national grid, causing temporary blackouts, may protect it from permanent damage.

Australian Energy Market Operators has been working with the Bureau of Meteorology since 1998 to monitor any actual or potential impact on the national electricity system.

There has been no known impact of solar flares on the Australian power system.
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