Free eBooks, articles, and info…

Will EMP/CME Kill a Solar Power System?

CME - coronal mass ejection from solar flares can cause a huge electromagnetic disturbance on earth and wipe out electronics and electricity service

CME – coronal mass ejection from solar flares can cause a huge electromagnetic disturbance on earth and wipe out electronics and electricity service

What happens if an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) bomb goes off over a populated area?

Or what about a CME (coronal mass ejection) from the sun?

Both of them can fry electronics and electrical systems.

When it comes to electrical systems, it begs the question… if you provide your own electricity via solar panels, and if you had a small off-grid system and were within range of where an EMP bomb went off, or a massive solar storm (CME), would it ruin the system?

If so, what parts would be fried, and how would you get it back up and running?

Would a faraday cage help for some part(s) of it?

Many people don’t know enough about this stuff, but it’s important enough to prepare for…

Types of EMP

There are several types of natural EMP, including these…

NATURAL EMP

* Lightning

* ESD (electrostatic discharge) that happens when two objects that are charged come into close proximity with each other, or contact each other

* Meteoric EMP–this is when electromagnetic energy discharges due to a meteor impacting a spacecraft, or due to an explosion and resulting breakup of a meteor that passes through earth’s atmosphere

* CME (coronal mass ejection), which is a plasma burst from the sun that has a magnetic field called a solar wind (also known as solar EMP)

MAN-MADE EMP

* Powerline surges

* Electrical circuitry that switches action (repetitive or isolated pulse train)

* Train of pulses from electric motors when the internal contacts make connections and then break those same connections due to the rotation of the armature

* Ignition systems from gasoline engines that form a train of pulses (due to spark plugs being fired)

* Military EMP–an NEMP (nuclear electromagnetic pulse) due to a nuclear explosion, or an EMP (HEMP – high altitude nuclear EMP) that causes a secondary pulse as the particles interact with the earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere

This latter one above is the one used in an EMP attack.

CME may be more likely than EMP attack

In some people’s views, an EMP attack is unlikely to happen, while others say it could happen anytime, especially if war breaks out between major powers. Seeing as one has never occurred yet, however, a good many survivalists think that a CME is more likely to occur since the sun can release them (and has in the recorded past–more about this shortly).

Whether it is an EMP or a CME that were to occur, your solar PV system for producing electricity might be the last thing on your mind in all actuality. What happens when the electric grid goes out in cities? It is restored, usually within hours. When it cannot be restored (in the case of CME/EMP) quickly enough then looting will occur in short order.

Surviving the marauders that come down the street for you and your belongings and your food is what would happen next.

In an electromagnetic pulse of this magnitude, everything electronic or electric could be destroyed. It depends, of course, on how close it hits, as well as how strongly the EMP couples to any electronics you own, as well as other variables.

If you’re really close to the EMP; however, the solar system, again, may be the last worry you have since a direct blast (overpressure), plus radiation and fallout would be more serious concerns.

If it is a CME, who knows what could happen–totally depends on the size and direction of the ejection, if a CME just skims the edge of the earth, or if it is a direct hit. The rise time for a CME (solar EMP) is usually slower, but again, there are many variables.

It is possible that if your solar energy equipment is not connected up to the power grid (or does not have very longs wires (these serve as antennas), then your system will likely be fine. A nuclear EMP would definitely deliver more power.

EMP bomb more dangerous than a CMEalternative-2225_640

I was told a story about a retired Navy man who had worked in advanced electronics, super conductors, magnetic anomoly detection research, and so on. He said that, really, anything is possible, because the United States military has stated that it could wipe out ALL electronics, including equipment that is buried 100 feet underground.

Are you paying attention yet?

This means anything and everything connected to the electric power grid, whether it is running or not, would likely be fried, smoke, or catch on fire. There might even be an inordinately high amount of house fires (due to electrical fires) following this event. Even your electric generator on standby, provided it is connected to the electric meter, and even the ground, would be burnt up.

Of course, that is just the initial blast… next comes the secondary pulse. This is high voltage electrostatic energy, which is in the air (similar to the charge that makes your hair stand on end during a lightning storm). Potentially, anything that contains microcircuitry *might* be fried.

Count on all your computers, car pcm, smart phones, solar panels, and other electronic devices (televisions, radios, all of it), to be wiped out. Done.

Will it happen? Who knows. Can it happen? Absolutely, it can since the technology is already developed and awaiting the day when it might be “needed”.

Will a faraday cage protect your electronics? Perhaps. It is possible that under a high pulse, with items stored (unconnected to anything) in a well-constructed cage eight feet or more underground, may work. There is no way to know for sure. You can plan, and prepare, but until it happens…

Really, if something as civilization-altering as this would be, it would be best to prepare for a civilization that is based back in the pre-1880’s. If it doesn’t happen, and nothing is wiped out, and if the electric grid power is back on in a week or two, then it may be no big deal (as long as your only heat source is not electric, if it hits during winter).

BANNER_SIMPLE PASSIVE SOLAR

Solar systems could be affected by EMP

Solar systems could be affected by EMP

Damage to electronic parts of solar PV systems

So what would happen to your solar power system if an EMP/CME were to occur?

A good chunk of your system would be damaged. The charge controller, and the inverter, in particular.

Any solar panels should survive but each panel has a diode that would blow and would have to be replaced. However, the panels themselves and batteries (if any) should not be harmed.

This is the good part since the physically larger components are the items that should be safe. This means they would not be taking up space in a faraday cage. This goes for parts for both solar and wind power.

Be aware though, the effect of EMP on electronic equipment is highly unpredictable. Equipment like inverters have an easier chance of survival since the outside of their structure acts as a heat sink.

Long conductors will sustain the most damage since they would sustain a massive voltage spike through them. This could fry solar cells’ connections from off of the glass.

Some people I have spoken with suggest buying two separate systems. Use one and keep the other disconnected, disabled, as well as to store it all in a faraday cage (such as a metal trash can with a lid-ground) that can be stored underground.

This way, if an EMP (natural or man-made) occurs, at least you can use the solar system until then, and if it gets fried from EMP then you can repair it with the spare parts you saved aside. Always keep a backup plan, however, to live without electricity, not only for a week, but potentially for years.

High tech "surge" arrestor (click image to enlarge)

High tech “surge” arrestor (click image to enlarge)

A long-time solar energy professional and survivalist friend of mine, Chuck Reel (he makes a living installing solar electric systems), said:

“No one really knows what would happen when an EMP happens as it has never been tested. From what I’ve read, the longer wires are to any electric device, the more likely it will be damaged as the longer wires pick up more energy from the radiation. Since solar systems are fairly compact, they may not be damaged at all.
 
“The newer solar controllers can take in much higher voltages most up to 150 volts even for a 12 volt system and the newest ones can take even higher, up to 600 volts DC. This doesn’t seem significant but it is as it greatly effects how far away the solar modules can be from the controller. They can now be much further away with much smaller wire so systems are putting a bigger footprint on the site and these longer wires may pick up more of that radiation.
 
“Lightning also poses the same problem on those longer wires so I usually install some of the new high tech “surge” arrestors like the picture shown here (from a system I just installed). These are supposed to clamp down on on any excess higher voltage and amperage that what is normally going thru the wires and thus protecting the electrical components on the other end of those wires.
 
“The 1st device on the other end of the solar wires is the solar controller with the newer ones described earlier being in the $700 range so it might be damaged. It is wired to the batteries that might blow up and then there is the most expensive component of the whole system, the inverter, that might also be severely damaged or not at all.
 
“To fix these problems, the damaged components would most likely have to replaced with new ones as they are highly sophisticated and couldn’t be easily repaired. It would take a special high tech repair shop with lots of test equipment to figure out what little parts broke and then replace those parts.
 
“Yes, I do believe a Faraday cage would help protect all the electronics inside the cage but it would be tricky to place everything inside the cage and expensive but I like this idea.
 
“Most solar systems are DC just like your car until it gets to the inverter, which makes it AC like your house. To charge batteries, you must have a higher voltage so solar panels put out higher voltage. The lower the voltage of the system the bigger and more expensive the copper wires must be so modern systems aren’t 12 volt like my old school one. I mostly do 24 volt systems for my customers but the Amish here go 48 volt, mostly. Bigger systems also benefit in multiple ways from being 48 volt.
“A survival solar system would benefit from being 12 volt as you could scrounge 12 volt pumps, lights, batteries, radios, relays, motors, etc. from cars or RVs and use them in your bug-out location.”
Metal trash can faraday cage

Metal trash can faraday cage

How to protect your components – use a faraday cage

A faraday cage should be able to protect electronic components from an EMP blast.

If your solar system us operating when the EMP blasts, then your system will electronically fry unless the whole system is placed inside the closed faraday cage.

Do not spend a bunch of money on manufactured faraday cages–it is just not necessary. Most survivalists I know place their spare batteries or other equipment in a faraday cage made from a metal trash can, or else in something like a sturdy wooden box wrapped in aluminum foil, and then set inside a metal dog cage.

Realize that there are containers specially made to protect your spare components from harm if such an EMP explosion were to occur.

Microwave ovens also work well to store smaller items (such as your cell phone, laptop, etc.) since they have a built-in faraday cage of their own to protect people from radiation. No electromagnetic radiation goes in, or out. At least in theory.

All electronics ruined or just the one’s that are “on”?

It is told that the largest electric pole transformers will be irreplaceable for a while if an EMP blast occurs. What would take society so long to replace these to restore electricity to the cities?

Most people wouldn’t want to be in the city if this happened…. looting would be the first thing… then when anarchy ensues because the rules all go out the window, then the orderly society we have today all goes downhill from there. At least, until martial law is instituted, so some people say. That would pose a whole other set of circumstances that would be a can of worms meant for another discussion for another day. But I digress…

So the question is, concerning EMPs or CMEs, do ALL electronics get fried, or just the ones that are turned on or running?

According to some survivalists, ALL electronics can possibly be destroyed in an EMP/CME, whether they are running or off, as well as whether they are connected, or even disconnected.

A very strong EMP blast, or particularly powerful CME, induces a current that infiltrates the powerlines. This can go far past the typical voltage and current found in the lines on a normal day, and it hits ALL of them at once. The system may not be able to handle an explosively charged event like that.

Normally you have two main wires that enter your home, a HOT, NEUTRAL, and a GROUND. The ground is a copper rod that is physically placed into the earth. All electric ‘grounds’ for the home are connected to this grounding rod, and within the main electric panel, the ground and neutral are connected together.

However, in an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), the pulse will go through all of them at once. There is no way to know for sure if this will affect electronics and other systems and components from damage for sure, even if in a faraday cage deep underground.

fog-1923403_640Electric generators

If you have a generator connected to your home, it should have a transfer switch. This switch disconnects the NEUTRAL and HOT, but it does not disconnect the GROUND. The electrical Code doesn’t allow disconnects between the ground and transfer switches, so this part will get damaged from the high current.

In fact, the spike of high current should wipe out most everything that is connected to the grid, and can also damage motors. Not unlike a lightning strike!

Another pulse that arrives includes a high voltage charge, which essentially charges the air. Because of this, microelectronics may be destroyed whether they are on or off, whether the battery is removed, placed in your nightstand, or even possibly put inside of a poorly made faraday cage, or possibly even a decently built cage that is deeper than eight feet underground.

EMP can permanently damage the large transformers connected at electric generating powerplants and substations (until those components are replaced with a non-fried substitute), but also anything that is exposed to discharges where spare parts are stored.

BANNER_CHEAPSKATES

What to do? Hope for the best but prepare for the worst

Just in case a devastating EMP occurs, then affected societies have to realize that any attempt to prevent it or beat it is likely a wasted endeavour. Better, might be to plan to know how to live without electricity in case the entire U.S. electric grid is wiped out, potentially for months or years.

After hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in August 2017, the electric grid was so damaged that some folks are still without power, even nine months after the fact. Imagine having to extend that damage from the small island of PR to entire country, with not downed lines, but every single transformer, all substations, and probably the electric generation plants damaged. They were not prepared for this devastation.

photo-manipulation-1671967_640Additionally, many, if not all of the vehicles on the road won’t run, and there will be zero communications because every satellite will get wiped, phones and office equipment and computers–all fried.As much as this sounds scary, do not forget that 4,000-5,000 airborne airliners would be overhead, only to drop out of the skies simultaneously. It could also happen at night, while most are sleeping.

The level of emergency will escalate quickly for many people all over the country. Hospitals’ equipment or diagnostics will not be of any use . Within days it will be as if society is thrown back into the Dark Ages.

Remember, all the firefighter, police, and other first responders’ equipment and vehicles will be down as well. The whole scene could get real ugly inside of 1-2 days. It will be important that people keep a medical first aid kid and know CPR.

Be aware people will try to take your belongings from you, perhaps at gunpoint. Best to stay home, or go out with a bicycle, horseback, or on foot. Messages and mail may eventually go back to the Pony Express days, but only if society decides to cooperate and instill order amongst the chaos. With everything down, and people fleeing and fighting over food and resources, do not expect much in way of progress too quickly.

It may be an advantage (or not), that if this scenario ever occurred, that 99% of people won’t have any idea what’s actually going on in neighboring cities, states, or farther. Many fear for their family members who live too far away and may never be seen or heard from from again. If this situation occurs, people will be praying they can find each other one day. Stay home. Be where your family or friends can find you or wait until the communication systems are back up.

mountain-hut-3068912Home for safety and security

People lived for centuries and millennia before that without electricity (that we’ve all become so dependent upon), so things will eventually adjust, or come back online, but it will take time. Be prepared to live without the comforts you have today, in such a scenario. Go to bed at dark and get up at dawn.

The need for electricity when the poo hits the fan type of situation is actually not the biggest problem. Think about real necessities, such as water, food, warmth and shelter. Use fire for both heat and light, space heating (via woodstove) and heating water for bathing. Use a solar oven for cooking on sunny days. Use the sun to distill contaminated water into potable water.

Preserving food and having adequate storage, drying and smoking, canning and storing in a cold room pantry/root cellar (that can double as a storm shelter) can help keep food without refrigeration. Many people will be doing without, and hunger is a heavy motivator to find solutions… too little, too late. This is why Preppers know and understand the need to prepare ahead. To have a plan.

Your land should be outside of the city, since the cities will sustain the most damage, and have the most chaos. If you have anything, focus on security for your family by building an energy efficient passive solar house, composting toilet, rain catching system, permaculture forest garden, earth tubes for natural cooling, and a rocket mass heater for warmth in winter.

Do you remember the difference between passive, hybrid, and active solar? The former has nothing to do with electricity or moving parts, and passive solar home design is the #1 best way (re solar energy) for your family and home to be prepared for an EMP blast because it keeps your home warm and safe because the house will use 20-90% less energy for heating and cooling. The rest can be done with a woodstove or rocket mass heater. That means you will need to cut far less wood… less chainsaw use (forget them if they have any electronic components), less fuel needed, less chopping by hand with an axe, less splitting wood with a maul. Plus, there are ways to do it on the cheap.

Humans beings lived for thousands of years without electricity. It does not mean that you have to now. Most of the people in ages past lived short and very tough lives. They also had the skills and tools of the era, but today the tools (even manual ones) are better made and longer lasting.

Life goes on, but for a while it would not be like society is today. Learning the old ways could save your life, even though most of us enjoy modern technology and want to keep it as long as possible. For instance, you are likely reading this article online from a digital device.

International Space Station

International Space Station

Can an EMP or CME hurt you?

If an EMP hit, one person said to me, “Don’t be concerned… the electric grid will be nixed, and you’ll likely be gone too.” I beg to differ.

Unless it is from people initially fighting rather than cooperating for the mutual benefit of growing food and living, sharing tools and resources, and helping each other survive, then they might otherwise die from killing each other over simple things and needs.

The EMP itself will not likely kill you. CMEs have hit earth, and the earth and all of nature is prepared and has dealt with it a plethora of time in the past. Like in the Carrington Event (1859 solar storm) research indicates, it is more than likely people and animals will survive an electromagnetic pulse easily enough. That said, how the pulse affects germ cells has found a correlation in breast cancer rates in women.

When an EMP is detonated, the nuke is at a high altitude–200 miles or more up in the sky. Due to this, only a very few would be actually be inured or killed due to the blast itself.

It could be a real bummer up on the International Space Station, however, if it is within range of the blast.

wreckage-3140424_640However, people in airplanes would be screwed though, as well as the people and buildings that they crash down upon after their electrical and communication and flight systems stop working.

A good reason to stay out of the main fly zones. The big modern planes that need their computers, may fall. Some argue that they will not, but generally speaking, if the grid fails, then computers die, GPS and satellites also stop working, communications end, and it’s going to be a really bad day.

Solar energy backup systems just in case

Some would say that an EMP would fry any item that has an electrical motherboard, which would include solar panels. Some of the panels are built well, but the converter box would likely be a goner.

Other say that the EMP would fry everything except battery banks. As mentioned earlier, keep a spare stored in a faraday cage. You can even turn your garage into a huge faraday cage and then can store everything within its walls securely!

All of that said, recall that no one knows anything for sure as it has never been tested on a massive scale. Lots of speculation exists because nothing of this extreme measure has ever happened.

For instance, if a single detonation occurred over Nebraska, you might be safe on the east or west coast. If they used multiple EMPs, with one located over the east coast, and one over the west coast, then everything there and in the middle where they meet might be affected.

Keep your solar system protected and either do not install it until AFTER an EMP event, or else repair just the fried parts with your good replacements in the faraday cage. It could be that not everyone will be without different forms of power after an EMP blast. Once communications are up, things will move faster. Many people also keep ham radio and shortwave radios, as well as CB radios safe and sound in their basement faraday cage.

inverter-647181_640Many other Preppers follow the same rule… one is none, two is one. As long as you keep safe as many spares as you can, then you’ll be that step ahead if you aren’t hit with a direct blast. Additionally, collect and store the old fashioned tools and learn the skills from the 1800’s. It isn’t going to be easy, but people don’t have to live like Sasquatch deep in the forest either.

For some, solar power is not for using while we have electricity from the grid, but rather solar systems are saved for after any global or regional or EMP or other similar event. In this way, people have access to their own emergency power source. People renting apartments in the city have nowhere to put such equipment, but it can be stored in a faraday cage and taken to the country in a moment’s notice. If the SHTF then they are prepared.

Also, note that batteries are actually rechargeable (regular D, C, AA, AAA batteries). There is only a minute difference between regular batteries and rechargeable batteries, mostly in how well they are manufactured. As long as the batteries are not leaking or have corrosion, they can typically be recharged. A small solar battery charger only costs about $25-30. Keep it in the faraday cage if you want it to work.

Striped Pattern

Prep your homestead for Doomsday

If you don’t have land of your own, sometimes you can store things at your or a friend’s property outside of the cities. You can also rent land, or  just a storage building on someone’s land. This goes for solar panels and systems, other emergency backup systems, and more. If a single solar event EMP occurs then (depending on the size) it might be possible to save your solar system.

Realize, however, that the 1859 solar storm (Carrington Event – external video link) wast he largest CME/EMP event ever recorded and effected all of the people everywhere on earth. If it were to happen today then people need to realize that the majority of the large transformers are manufactured overseas, mostly in China.

Would the Chinese be in a hurry to help us if their own systems were also down? They might have to start over as well. There are only a few of the large transformers in existence that are stored within the US. If a man-made EMP occurred, then you’d better be prepared for a second or even third strike, perhaps even several months later.

If either of those situations happen then a good chunk of the population could die from war, famine, or other problems since society today is centered in cities and is not prepared to live off the land. Many do not even know how to garden, let alone have the seeds and skills and water (it won’t be city water) to grow food, or even hunt or fish or trap. Many people might die within six months. Isolation, in this case, would be safest. Hungry people can be dangerous.

You will want to grow food, but hide it or people will steal from it or wipe it out… how? Grow a forest garden, which mimics the edge of the forest… and all good things happen at the edges. This is one of the many ideas from permaculture, which can help save the world–or at least those who are still living and smart enough to hide their garden by growing a forest garden.

Wild foods and edible weeds, mushrooms, plus annual garden plants scattered around in planned/designed select places between a ton of edible perennials would just look like the wilderness and could feed your family. No-till methods just make it that much easier. It should not look like a garden–it should look like nature… like the edge of a forest.

Use oil lamps or some other form of non-electric lighting if your solar system refuses to work. Learn to make your own oil because the stores may not exist anymore.

If you have land, you can build a cabin or cottage cheaplly, even on a frugal budget. Or even a tiny house. Start somewhere.

Further reading and information

Advice from other Preppers (many thanks!):
Google the term: “garbage can Faraday cage“. However, make one modification… add a ground strap for the battery from the trach can lid to the can itself–these two metal parts need to stay at the same (voltage) potential in order for the cage to work properly.
For those wanting to make a DIY solar system, look up the 99-cent Kindle book titledBasic Solar Component Guide‘ by Steve Miller. This is an extremely useful guide to help you design a solar system that is right for your needs.
Look up ‘Sol Ark solar systems‘. They are EMP hardened!
Regarding batteries that last, this just came across my desk… thought you might like this video:
Some would add in how-to books, because having the information in print is priceless–especially since reading can be entertaining when the Internet and TV programs have vanished in a flash.

how to solar energy projects

(click to see cover)

A how-to book covering 6 subjects:

solar ovens
solar water distillers
earth tubes for natural air conditioning
solar vs wind systems
passive solar home design, plus making an
in-the-home storm shelter as well as making your home tornado and hurricane-resistant.

To see more click here for Passive Solar Energy House Projects.

 

Share this:

Leave a Reply

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>