St. Louis Park company works to protect world from falling off the grid

6:51 AM, Sep 18, 2012   |    comments
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ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- The new NBC series "Revolution" features a world without power. A population that was once connected becomes completely disconnected. How real is it? Could a blackout happen today?

Some scientists say yes because solar flares are happening more and more. The last large one was in July. Each one disrupts the earth's magnetic field as hot gases race from the sun's surface to Earth.

Most have no real impact beyond creating Northern Lights. But researchers say the powerful ones aren't pretty. In fact, they could destroy our electricity grid and cause a massive blackout, according to George Anderson, founder of Emprimus, a small company in St. Louis Park that's working to prevent the potential disaster.

"If that blast happens to come out and get Earth that's the worrisome thing. If it's a big one aimed at us and it's polarized correctly we have about a 20 hour warning that it's coming and about 20 minute warning as to how bad it is," Anderson said.

Anderson says our grid currently has no protection against such an event. So, two years ago his company developed a big metal box called SolidGround. Anderson and his business partner Gale Nordlinger believe this could be the answer.

"This would be a society changing event because think about it, if the power grid doesn't work, pipelines don't work, telecommunications don't' work," Nordlinger said.

To protect the grid SolidGround would be placed next to a transformer. It would simply stop the dangerous gas currents from infiltrating the grid automatically. It's being tested by the Department of Defense in Idaho and the hope is to have 1,000 of the machines at different transformer stations across the U.S.

ABB, one of the world's largest transformer companies, has already partnered up with Emprimus.

"We're looking at this as an opportunity to make the grid safer. It's a good insurance policy especially for the critical infrastructure where you just can't lose it," Bart Gaskey, vice president of sales for the U.S. branch of ABB, said.

If you'd like to read more about Emprimus and its role in keeping us on the grid the monthly magazine "Twin Cities Business" will have an in-depth story in its November issue.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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