Electrical threat



To the Editor:

The Maine State Legislature has done its work to address the threat of a total collapse of the electric grid from an extreme geomagnetic solar storm (or geomagnetic disturbance GMD) so powerful and widespread it would black out Maine, the whole Northeast, Atlantic seaboard or even the nation for months or years. But work remains. LD 1363, legislation sponsored by Sen. David Miramant of Camden, would have required power companies to install protections on the grid to allow it to recover quickly. Without protections, the grid could not survive.

Studies have been done by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), first responders, insurance companies and independent national experts. Miramant sums up the results this way: “We have identified a problem, we have a solution, we need to fix it.” We are in a pre-Katrina moment. Everyone knows we need to build the dikes, but will we?”

Loss of electric power for months or years because of a GMD is not practically survivable, because the critical extra high voltage transformers that control the flow of electricity throughout the state would be destroyed or badly damaged. They come from other countries and take up to two years to deliver in normal times. We have no spares.

Prevention of transmission system collapse is the only credible protection. The alternative is unthinkable.

LD 1363 would have required the installation of protective power surge blockers on extra high voltage transformers, the most critical transmission equipment. They’ve been tested and proven effective by Idaho National Laboratory. Their cost is $2.3 million total if Maine accepts the current offer, about $4 million installed. If financed over five years, the cost to ratepayers would be 60 cents per person, per year for 5 years; if over the 20-year life of the blockers, $.15 per person per year.

LD 1363 passed in the House, by a strong bipartisan vote. It lost in the Senate by a single vote, unfortunately along party lines. Only two Republican senators, David Burns and Rod Whittemore, supported it. The lobbyists won, senators succumbed, and everyone else lost – an old political story.

People wonder why the electric companies don’t want to protect their own business. Power companies could do these projects on their own. Alternatively, the governor or PUC could order it done.

They’ve heard from me. Maybe they should hear from you?

Andrea Boland

Sanford

 

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