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Letter Re: A Carrington Event Space Storm–A Natural EMP Equivalent

New Scientist magazine article recently published an important article titled “Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe [1].” The article outlines possible scenarios for the risk of solar storms that could severely damage national grids and vital electrical and electronic systems. The effects would be catastrophic and devolve societies into a desperate survival situation for individuals.

One quote from the article:
“Over the last few decades, western civilisations have busily sown the seeds of their own destruction. Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.”

Could off-grid standby equipment such as power generators or solar cells also be damaged? See the National Academy of Sciences report [2]. (After registering, you can download a free PDF file of the report): Best Regards, – Gregg T

JWR Replies: I’ve received more than 20 letters in the past 48 hours from readers concerned about this article. In my opinion, this natural “EMP [3]-like” effect is just another reason to get prepared. The probability in any given lifetime is quite low, but the impact if it were to happen would be devastating.

Most home non-grid-tied photovoltaic, micro-hydro, and wind power systems will probably be safe from a Carrington Event [4]. (The field strength and coupling effects will be roughly analogous to that of nuclear EMP [5].) If you have a microprocessor-controlled battery charge controller, then one fairly inexpensive measure is to buy a spare. But for most of us, buying a spare large inverter is cost-prohibitive. In the event that your large (whole-house) inverter get fried, then perhaps your could plan to revert to DC [6]-only system, and store a couple of spare small inverters for crucial AC loads.

As with any other “EMP redundant” radios and other electronics, you should store your spares in ammo cans, all-metal cookie tins, or similarFaraday cage [7] structures.