Modeling geomagnetically induced currents in the South African power transmission network using the finite element method

03 Feb 2016

Geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) are a result of time variations of the geomagnetic field, which induce a geoelectric field at the Earth's surface. Geomagnetic perturbations are enhanced during adverse space weather events called geomagnetic storms. All ground-based conductor networks can be affected by GIC during such events. As a way of assessing the magnitude of GIC expected in a particular technological system, models are developed, in which the computation of the induced geoelectric field is a key step. Computation of GIC in the South African power transmission network has so far been done using a uniform Earth model and improved using a layered Earth conductivity profile. In this work we present geoelectric field results obtained by using the finite element method (FEM) and improved GIC estimates using a realistic conductivity profile, magnetic field data interpolated from two South African observatories, and a new method for estimating the network coefficients, a and b, which map the north-south and east-west electric fields to their respective GIC components. The performance of the chosen FEM model demonstrates that it is an effective tool for GIC modeling. Unlike previous engineering techniques, our method for estimating the a and b coefficients from GIC and measured magnetic field data gives results that are independent of prior knowledge of the network configuration. The GIC estimated using the a and b coefficients obtained from the proposed method compares well with the measured GIC during the late October 2003 geomagnetic storm.