The man who works with space weather

One of the best things about working at National Grid ESO, according to Andrew Richards, is the wide range of projects that individuals get involved in. Alongside his job as Modelling and Insight Manager, Andrew works on policies relating to space weather and how these extremely unusual occurrences could affect GB’s electricity grid.

When we think about space weather, we’re talking about how the sun can affect electricity networks here on earth. Every day, huge balls of magnetic charge, created by explosions on the sun, hit earth’s magnetic field. This causes currents to flow deep within the surface of the earth, out of conductors and onto our transmission lines. This can lead to equipment like transformers behaving in abnormal ways.

Preparing the grid for space weather is a bit of a challenge because the science is still in its infancy. We don’t yet know what causes explosions on the sun, so we can’t yet reliably forecast them. For now, we have to rely on spacecraft to record when an explosion has happened and give us a warning. In the future, it would be great to know about these explosions before they happen, but we need to study the sun in more detail for this to become a reality.

With such an interesting project to work on, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Andrew’s day-to-day work was less exciting. But you’d be wrong. He’s recently been profiled by National Grid ESO as part of a video series explaining some of the unique and fascinating roles available at the company. Watch Andrew explain about his work with space weather work and his role as Modelling and Insight Manager here.