Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Integrated Science and Technology


The electric power grid is our most critical infrastructure. This key resource provides the energy required for all other infrastructures to function. In modern times, electricity has become necessary to sustain life. The power grid in the U.S. is a target for terrorists and is vulnerable to naturally-occurring events. Numerous assessments have been performed on the vulnerability of our national power grid to both manmade and natural events.1 Two significant wide-area threats against our power grid are solar storms and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks. Solar storms are naturally-occurring events that have the potential to create large-scale blackouts that could potentially affect more than 50% of the U.S. population.2 EMP attacks occur when nuclear weapons are detonated at high altitudes; although there is no threat of direct blast or radiation dangers to humans, EMP events can wreck power grids. Although numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of EMP events and solar storms on the U.S. power grid, little has been done to plan for restarting or “blackstarting” the power grid after such an event. If electricity from unaffected areas is not available, the blackstart process becomes much more challenging. The procedures required to blackstart the power grid following a wide area outage are very different from the procedures used to restart the power grid following the major but limited blackouts that have occurred to date such as the 2003 Northeast blackout. This document develops a starting point for blackstarting the U.S. power grid based on likely effects on critical infrastructures caused by solar storms and EMP events. Previous regional blackstarts were assessed to glean empirical information on aspects that could be extrapolated to a national blackstart contingency