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This is a close-up view of a part of a transformer that was damaged by space weather. The transformer overheated and caught fire.
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Image courtesy of Public Service Electric and Gas and Peter Balma.

How Space Weather Can Damage Transformers

Our electrical power system supplies our homes and businesses with electricity. Space weather storms can mess up the power system, leaving us without electricity. A transformer is a piece of equipment that is used a lot in electrical power systems. A transformer converts electricity from one voltage to another. Transformers can be damaged or destroyed by surges of electricity caused by a space weather storm.

A transformer is designed to work well with AC (Alternating Current) electricity. That's the kind of electricity that normally flows through the wires of our power systems. Space weather can cause DC (Direct Current) electricity to flow through the wires and transformers. DC electricity is bad for transformers.

When transformers get too much DC electricity, they heat up. Parts of the transformer might melt. Oil in the transformer can catch on fire. Some transformers can even explode!

Even if the transformer isn't destroyed, it might be damaged. It might wear out sooner and need to be replaced.

Last modified February 26, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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