Articles | Volume 23, issue 6
15 Sep 2005
 | 15 Sep 2005

Identifying power line harmonic radiation from an electrical network

S. M. Werner, C. J. Rodger, and N. R. Thomson

Abstract. It has been suggested that the space environment is being polluted by power line harmonic radiation (PLHR), generated from harmonics of the electrical power transmission frequency (50 or 60 Hz) and radiated into the ionosphere and magnetosphere by long power lines. While some in-situ satellite measurements of PLHR have been reported, it has proved difficult to confirm the source and overall significance. The electricity network of the city of Dunedin, New Zealand, is tiny compared to the many large industrial zones found outside New Zealand. However, the 1050Hz ripple control signal injected into the local electrical grid at regular intervals as a load-control mechanism provides an opportunity for identifying PLHR strengths radiated from a spatially well defined electrical network. In-situ observations by satellites should allow a greater understanding of PLHR and its significance as man-made pollution to near-Earth space. Calculations have been undertaken to estimate the strength of the radiation fields expected from the ripple control signal which is injected into the Dunedin city electrical network. We find that ground-based measurements will not be sensitive enough for detection of the ripple control radiation fields, even during the quietest winter night. While significant power penetrates the lower ionosphere, this is well below the reported threshold required for nonlinear triggering in the Van Allen radiation belts. Some radiated fields at satellite altitudes should be detectable, allowing in-situ measurements. At the altitude of the DEMETER mission, the radiated electric fields will not be detectable under any ionospheric conditions. However, we find that the radiated magnetic fields may be detectable by the DEMETER satellite at certain times, although this will be very difficult. Nonetheless, there is the possibility for future experimental campaigns.

Keywords. Magnetospheric physics (Magnetosphereionosphere interactions; Plasma waves and instabilities) – Ionosphere (Active experiments)