Energy

Underground Energy Interstate Proposed As Means To Avoid EMP Attack

REUTERS/Tim Wimborne/Files

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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One entrepreneur has an idea to place America’s energy needs underground to harden them from potential EMP attacks.

Alexander MacDonald, retired head of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and current director of 
Numerical Weather Predictions at Spire Global, wants to build an underground highway for America’s energy needs. MacDonald’s plan to if the country were struck by an EMP strike: Build a vast underground Direct Current (DC) infrastructure to help the country if the unthinkable ever happens.

MacDonald said in a phone call to The Daily Caller News Foundation, the idea is a “market driven solution,” which would ideally not cost the taxpayers anything. It allows private companies to bid for sections of the new ‘Energy Interstate,’ and build it at cost to the companies, not taxpayers. MacDonald said he hopes to earn wider support for such a program precisely because it isn’t government mandated.

After a 6 year study on underground High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC), MacDonald and his team found that the massive undertaking would either keep energy prices the same, or at most, “a one cent increase” for energy bills, as MacDonald explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation. While an increase of any sort is likely to be met with disdain from the public, a small increase meant to secure the energy grid may not be met with the same level of disdain as any typical increase.

The power lines seen while driving down the roads are Alternating Current (AC), and a vast majority of the country uses AC for its power needs. That’s what those green boxes are for on people’s lawns, to step down the voltage for our personal use at home. While the majority of American power comes in the form of Alternating Current, Direct Current is also essential for computers, solar cells and even electric cars run.

MacDonald wants to utilize solar and wind from certain parts of the country and ship that power to other parts where solar and wind are not as viable, using the aforementioned energy interstate. Understanding that certain parts of America are better for wind, others for solar, his plan is to be able to ship that energy wherever it is needed.

The shipping idea takes care of a nagging problem with alternative energy: storage.

“Just like Eisenhower streamlined the interstate system to allow easier travel from one place to another, we envision the same thing with energy.”

When it’s overcast for the majority of winter in the northeast, the southwest could technically funnel its solar power to the NE. If MacDonald’s plan works, no longer would the focus need to be so much on storage, but instead could focus on ways to make the energy interstate a reality.

“I have studied weather my whole life and concluded about 10 years ago that the intermittency problem of wind and solar energy would go away if power could be moved in real time over an area big enough to encompass large weather energy scales. An area big enough that the wind is always blowing somewhere is needed.” MacDonald wrote in an article for the Washington Post June 2nd.

Another potential feature underground system is its ability to curb CO2 emissions. MacDonald claims that such a system could potentially reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%.

While explaining to The Daily Caller News Foundation what a ‘Faraday Cage’ was — a cage designed to divert electricity — MacDonald said that the wires he proposes to carry the DC underground would be wrapped in a copper mesh.
The copper mesh would ground the cables, and not only act as a ground for lightning strikes and solar storms, but also as protection from EMP strikes.

China, which has it’s own HDVC, decided to build it’s power station above ground, but this still leaves it open to attacks. Whether that be a terrorist style EMP attack on the grid, or even just locals.

Moving such a power grid underground would be a welcome innovation not only to thwart any potential attacks on our grid, but would also help bolster alternative energy which has hot spots for wind and solar, and would allow those hot spots to share its energy with some of the not-so-hot spots. As a former NY’er, the perpetually gray skies in a NY winter immediately comes to mind as a beneficiary.

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