FERC proposes reliability standard on geomagnetic disturbances

Source:U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) looks to develop new mandatory reliability standards to address geomagnetic disturbance vulnerabilities on the U.S. electric grid. (Image: Artist's depiction of solar wind particles interacting with Earth's magnetosphere. Sizes are not to scale.)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed to adopt a new reliability standard intended to mitigate the impacts of geomagnetic disturbances (GMDs) that can have potentially severe, widespread effects on reliable operation of the nation’s Bulk-Power System.

While the impacts of space weather are complex and depend on numerous factors, space weather has demonstrated the potential to effect the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System. During a GMD event, geomagnetically-induced current (GIC) flow in transformers may cause half-cycle saturation, which can increase absorption of Reactive Power, generate harmonic currents, and cause transformer hot spot heating. Increased transformer Reactive Power absorption and harmonic currents associated with GMD events can also cause protection system Misoperation and loss of Reactive Power sources, the combination of which can lead to voltage collapse.

FERC’s proposal takes the first step in implementing a May 2013 final rule in which FERC directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation to develop new mandatory reliability standards to address GMD vulnerabilities, and it directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop new standards in two stages. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) pertains to a standard offered by NERC to address implementation of operating plans and operating procedures or processes to mitigate effects of GMD.

NERC’s proposed standard would apply to reliability coordinators and transmission operators with an operator area that includes certain power transformers with terminal voltage greater than 200 kV. The standard has three requirements:

  • Reliability coordinators must develop, maintain and implement a GMD operating plan that coordinates the GMD operating procedures or processes within the reliability coordinator area.
  • Reliability coordinators must disseminate space weather information.
  • Transmission operators must develop operating procedures or processes to address GMD events.

Under the May 2013 final rule, NERC is required to file the second stage reliability standards in January 2015. Those standards would identify “benchmark GMD events” that specify the severity of GMD events that owners and operators must assess for potential impacts on the Bulk-Power System. Responsible entities would be required to conduct initial and ongoing assessments of the potential impact of these events on equipment and the system, and to develop and implement plans to protect against instability, uncontrolled separation or cascading failures.

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