Realtime Monitoring of Electric Fields for Power Grid And Other Applications

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Monday, 5 January 2015
Geoff Crowley, Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates, Boulder, CO; and C. Fish, I. Azeem, C. Winkler, M. Pilinski, A. Reynolds, J. Kunches, D. Hunton, and G. Thompson

The potential threat to our electrical infrastructure from Geo-Magnetic Disturbances (GMD) and Ground-Induced Currents (GICs) has been well publicized. However, there is relatively little data available to the power companies needing to make real-time decisions, or to scientists trying to understand the effects. One of the most valuable measurements is of the electric field at ground level (geoelectric fields) near high-tension lines and transformers. ASTRA has developed a new, low-cost instrument capable of measuring the electric field at ground level in real-time. The instrument can be used by power grid operators to identify space weather impacts in real-time, providing additional information to help manage mitigation responses. It can also be used by scientists who need to understand either the large scale or local electric circuit and its relation to other geophysical measurements such as magnetic field perturbations.

In addition, ASTRA's self-powered, autonomous, Standalone System Support Module (SSSM) provides power and communication capability to support our customers' need to operate various assets in remote locations, including environmental sensors and other monitoring and communications equipment. The SSSM was designed specifically for operations in harsh environments with scalability and configurability in mind. An Iridium communications module can be switched out with cell-phone or other communications protocols. The SSSM enables ASTRA and our customers to provide real-time space weather monitoring services from remote locations, including the measurement of geoelectric fields and other geophysical parameters.

These kinds of technologies and services illustrate how society is developing tailored products, delivery technologies, and user applications for mitigating risks to technologies affected by space weather.