The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission heightened the alert for predicted solar storm interference with the grid Oct. 18. Also at this week’s meeting, regulators nudged utilities to lower vegetation under transmission lines without clear-cutting. For geo-magnetic disturbances, the commission voted to rely on the North American Electric Reliability Corporation to develop standards to deflect solar storms. The requirements could include new equipment, as well as automatic blocking devices. “The composition of soil can make it more vulnerable, to solar storms, particularly if they contain heavy metals,” commissioner Phil Moeller said. Solar storms can cause “excessive reactive power consumption” as well as damage high voltage transformers, noted commissioner Cheryl LaFleur. The geography of California doesn’t lend itself to surprise solar disturbances on the grid, according to a Pacific Gas & Electric spokesperson. The utility noted it’s still “actively participating” in federal regulators’ geomagnetic oversight. New minimum clearances also were set on lines down below 200 kV--but the commission warned against going overboard. “The commission’s been receiving complaints that utilities are clear-cutting” on transmission paths, Jon Wellinghoff, commission chair, said. The reports have been unofficial, according to a commission spokesperson, and were not pinned on any locations, like California.