IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2016 - 61

The planning and operation of the [Hydro-Québec] system
was especially challenging due to its large size and remote,
harsh location.
Though the La Grande river complex and ehV transmission system were engineering marvels of their time, they were
not immune to one of nature's most spectacular phenomena:
geomagnetic activity in the auroral zone. other issues that
would become more evident are the power system's location
on the canadian shield, a vast area of high resistivity igneous rock, and the high latitudes where it is exposed to the
enhanced geomagnetic activity along the auroral zone.

An Eventful 24 Hours in March 1989
on the evening of sunday, 12 march 1989, 27 years ago,
Léonard bolduc, a researcher with hydro-Québec, drove to
the company's research institute on the south shore of montreal without knowing that the most beautiful show of his
lifetime was soon to begin.
at 02:45 a.m. eastern standard Time (esT), bolduc ventured outside to find complete darkness and silence everywhere.
he watched in awe as a fantastic light show swirled in the sky,
a dazzling performance of light with colors flourishing and
dancing in the night. From 3:00 to 4:30 a.m., montreal resident
brian maged watched in amazement at what he said looked like
thousands of meteor showers. "The sky was filled with streaks.
it looked like a lot of whitish and reddish light coming almost

7 March 8 March

9 March

10 March

13 March

straight above the city," he said. "it was the strangest thing i ever
saw in the sky."
The following morning, montrealers woke up with neither
power nor heat. The absence of street illumination caused traffic jams in the downtown core. The city's underground transport
system did not start operating until 9 a.m., leading to overcrowding of buses. many schools and businesses were shut down.
restoring the main transmission system took nine hours. by
10:00 a.m., power had been restored to about 50% of hydroQuébec customers in the montreal region. at 12:00 p.m., the
power grid was back in service and providing electricity and heat
to most customers. with power restored, hydro-Québec could
turn its attention to investigating what had caused the power
blackout. reports were already coming in of problems on power
systems across north america, indicating that the cause of the
disturbance extended beyond Québec. They soon realized that the
story of the power blackout extended all the way back to the sun.

Space Weather Disturbance
on 5 march 1989, a complex sunspot region on the sun rotated
into view from the earth. over the next two weeks, this region
was the source of numerous solar flares and plasma eruptions (Figure 2). early and late in the sequence, eruptions shot

14 March

15 March

16 March

17 March 1989

figure 2. White light images (top) and solar magnetograms (bottom) showing the passage of Region 5395 across the face
of the sun in March 1989. (Courtesy of National Solar Observatories, NOAO/AURA.)
november/december 2016

ieee power & energy magazine

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2016

IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2016 - Cover1
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2016 - Cover2
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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2016 - Cover3
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