The most popular type of stars are red dwarves, which regrettably tend to be flare stars. Yes, I know that geomagnetic storms and power lines do not like each other.

Technology level: More or less early 21st century equivalent. Extra issues: No legacy issues, infrastructure and settlements are built from scratch. Low population density, so one theoretically could be picky. Cheapest and easiest to access source of electricity is hydropower.

How to design power grids and related infrastructure in the most practical and reasonable way?

Best answers will take in to consideration things such as:

  1. Founding main settlements away from magnetic poles and away from main bodies of water (this second is also a risk factor on Earth for geomagnetic storms).

  2. The decisive (or almost decisive) factor in locating the main city near the main power plant to shorten the cables

  3. Special preferences concerning voltage or frequency of electric current for transmission lines (HVDC is out, if I'm not mistaken).

  4. Practicality of hardening the grid (series capacitors / surge protectors / etc.), as opposed to a main line of defense of regularly (even a few times per day) turning off most of power transmission lines to prevent transformers from burning.

  5. Trying to enforce construction codes to design buildings that would work as low quality Faraday cages

  6. Any other key modification area that I've missed.

[Question only relates to geomagnetic storms, ignores issues of tidal lock or ultra high UV index during flares]

  • $\begingroup$ You'd probably want to design an electrical infrastructure that could be repaired quickly and easily, especially if you're anticipating it to be knocked down frequently. $\endgroup$
    – user44399
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 20:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I remember reading that during the Carrington Event, Telegraph operators discovered that they could still send telegraphs even with their batteries disconnected because the event was inducing current in the wires. I wonder whether an electrical transmission system could be devised that takes advantage of this and stores the induced current during flares to be used during quiescent periods? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, the only think you need do to protect a power grid from geomagnetics is bury it. (I should have thought of that for my last answer. I'll go amend it now...) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 22:05

2 Answers 2


High voltage DC is exactly the right technology to deal with the effects of geomagnetic storms.

Geomagnetic storms damage AC transmission lines by inducing large DC currents and voltages in them which damage equipment designed to handle AC power. HVDC equipment is is designed to handle DC and the surges are much less damaging. (The best thing we could do to insulate the grid from geomagnetic storms is to move to HVDC for long-distance transmission.)

(The Carrington Event damaged telegraph equipment since that all ran on low voltage DC and had no protection to deal with surges.)

See this NASA paper for an interesting discussion of geomagnetic storms and the US grid.


How to design an electrical grid for a flare star planet?

Initial discoveries about electricity on such a planet may lead to a circumspect approach to this sort of thing, because of the unpredictable, painful and sometimes fatal effects to a(n at first) primitive society of inductances within metals.

Frame Challenge.

A radical shift in development of power distribution could develop, somewhat away from the idea of a grid in the electrical sense, but still a power grid.

  • Hydropower generation would be used to create a hydrogen (and nominally oxygen) based transport and power distribution economy.

  • Vehicles that relied on hydrogen ignition by dieseling not requiring a conventional electrical system would predominate. Vehicle starting cranks would be the standard way to start, and a fuel shut-off valve to stop the engine - just as they were the first half and more of the twentieth century.

  • Terrestrial radio and television would be relayed - first through optical signals beamed by direct line of sight to photoelectric sensors and multiple distribution points, then developing into fibreoptic networks.

  • Hydrogen (and oxygen) powered and (limelight) lit homes and businesses, with thermoelectric and Fuel Cell electrical generation would be used to power industry, entertainment and communication - with well earthed and insulated systems (themselves comprising specialised Faraday cages).

  • In addition to the local supply lines and the tankers providing gas to homes, the possibility of developing distributed nodes of massive aerials which collect power from the solar discharges would be evaluated for opportunistic power storage - into pumping water uphill into reservoirs ready for hydroelectric generation - into molten salt thermal batteries - into gyroscopic inertial systems and other means we haven't seen yet (fair to say).

A different world from ours.

  • $\begingroup$ not in the question but fitting to the answer: optical and biological computing. $\endgroup$
    – Henning M.
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 14:09

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