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Real-Time GIC Simulator

Simulation of Geomagnetically Induced Currents in Power Systems


NRCan, FMI, Hydro One

Technical Group

GIC & Ground Effects

SDA objective

Space weather disturbances cause geomagnetic storms which induce electric fields in conductors at the earth’s surface.  These electric fields drive electric currents through power systems where they can produce a variety of effects that are detrimental to system operation.  Elevated harmonic levels can cause unwanted relay trips while increased reactive power demand can lead to voltage dips.  To alert system operators to possible problems and to help them manage the supply of reactive power it would be useful to have a real-time display of the geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) in the network.  GIC measurements can provide information for a limited number of specific locations. However, a system-wide picture of GIC flows can most effectively be provided by a real-time model of  GIC.  We now have the knowledge to produce such a real-time GIC simulator.SDA objective


  • Network map showing geomagnetically induced currents throughout the power system
  • Table of GIC values in the last minute and peak GIC in the last 60 mins.
  • Plot of electric field and GIC at any selected substation

Link to Project WebSite

SDA description

As part of the ESA Pilot Projects for Space Weather Applications a Real-Time GIC Simulator will be developed by scientists at the Geomagnetic Laboratory, Natural Resources Canada and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.  The industrial partner is Hydro One, the operator of the power transmission network in Ontario, Canada. 

The GIC Simulator will use real-time geomagnetic data feeding into earth and power system models to produce real-time displays of GIC flow throughout the power system.  The first step in the process is to calculate the electric fields experienced by the power system.  A  layered conductivity model will be used to calculate the surface impedance of the earth.  This surface impedance will be used with the incoming magnetic field data to calculate the electric fields at the earth’s surface.  

The next stage of the process is to use the calculated electric field as input to a power system model.  We will explore with the power system operator the most effective way of interfacing the GIC model to the system configuration information so that the model is automatically updated when power lines or equipment are taken in or out of service.  The model output will be GIC values for all the high voltage lines and transformers throughout the network.

Finally the GIC information needs to be provided to the system operators in such a way that all the relevant information is readily available without overloading the operators with extra data.  We will work with the power system operators to develop a graphical interface that meets their requirements.  It is expected that this will require repeated display experimentation and feedback from the operators before a satisfactory design is achieved.

Hydro One has several GIC monitors on its system and is in the process of installing more GIC monitors. When this work is completed  the Ontario power system will be one of the most widely monitored systems in the world.  GIC data from these monitoring points will be used to verify the GIC model calculations.  Thus this project will not only demonstrate the feasibility of providing a real-time service but also provide information on the accuracy of the information provided.


Geomagnetic Laboratory (NRCan)
Space Research Group (FMI)
Investment Planning Division (Hydro One)

Contact / Manager

Dr David Boteler

Geomagnetic Lab
7 Observatory Crescent
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0Y3
Telephone: 1-613-837-2035

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