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Eclipse Will Be “First Major Test” Of Solar Power’s Role In Energy Grid

Alternative Energy

The first total solar eclipse in 99 years will be an unprecedented test of an American power grid that has become rapidly reliant on solar energy, according to Bloomberg. Power grids, utilities and generators are bracing for more than 12,000 megawatts of solar power to go offline starting around 9 a.m. in Oregon as the moon blocks out the sun across a 70-mile-wide (113-kilometer) corridor.

The eclipse has arrived at a time when the American power grid is becoming increasingly reliant on solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

“This is the first major test of the power grid since America started bringing large amounts of intermittent solar and wind resources onto the system. It comes just as the grid is undergoing an unprecedented transformation whereby flexible resources such as battery storage will complement growing supplies of solar and wind. Solar installations have grown ninefold since 2012 and renewable sources are forecast to supply just as much of America’s electricity demand as natural gas by 2040.”

Renewable energy sources have increased dramatically, especially over the past five to ten years, said Nicholas Steckler, an analyst at Bloomberg.

“’The U.S. power grid “hasn’t seen this sort of natural phenomenon since solar became a thing,’ Nicholas Steckler, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said. ‘With so many renewables coming online, especially in the last five to ten years, there is more impact from an eclipse.’”

In most cases, regional power authorities already have back-up natural gas plants and hydroelectric power lined up to help compensate for the sudden loss of solar power. They’ve also promised to keep locals apprised of the situation.

“The eclipse is expected to reach the U.S. at 9:05 a.m. local time at Lincoln Beach, Oregon, and last for about four hours. Back-up, natural-gas plants and hydroelectric dams are at the ready to fill solar’s void along with new technologies to control demand.


Regional grid operators from California to Pennsylvania plan to provide real-time updates on how their networks are handling fluctuating power flows as millions of Americans head outside to gaze at the sky.”

Because it’s home to more solar power than any other state, experts will be closely watching California’s response to the eclipse. According to Bloomberg, the state plans to briefly transitions to a backup network of hydropower generators and gas plants to help fill an expected 6,000-megawatt gap from the loss of solar power.

“California, home to more solar power than any other state, will tap into its network of hydropower generators and gas plants that can ramp up quickly to fill a 6,000-megawatt gap in solar energy. The state also embarked upon a public relations campaign to convince residents to conserve energy to minimize greenhouse-gas emissions while solar plants are down.”

North Carolina is expected to see the largest reduction in solar power on a percentage basis as part of the state, which lies in the eclipse’s “zone of totality” will be plunged into complete darkness. The state’s power grid is expected to lose about 2,000 megawatts, or 80 percent, of utility-scale solar farms. To prepare for this, the state is treating the eclipse like an early sunset.

“The utility will treat it like a “gradual sunset,” said Tammie McGee, a company spokeswoman, estimating that as many as 1,200 megawatts of gas generation will be called upon to pick up the slack.”

Wholesale energy prices could see a brief spike, particularly in California, where the typical midday jump in electricity costs might be longer and steeper than on a normal day.

“Wholesale electricity prices may rally on solar’s sudden slide. The eclipse will start curbing power supplies a little after 9 a.m. on the West Coast, just when the work week is starting and demand is taking off. According to energy data provider Genscape Inc., the event may extend the typical period of high power prices in California by about two hours.”

Anyone interested in watching the eclipse should use the proper precautions. Experts have warned that looking directly at the sun during the eclipse, while wearing sunglasses. Observers could suffer temporary or permanent loss of eyesight unless they use special eyeglasses designed to withstand the sun’s rays.

7 Comments on "Eclipse Will Be “First Major Test” Of Solar Power’s Role In Energy Grid"

  1. bobinget on Mon, 21st Aug 2017 12:52 pm 

    Totality lasts a tad over a minute.
    My solar panels kept right on chugging as if we were in a thunderstorm. 150 miles from total, I was still generating 275 W. Kinda normal for a heavy rainstorm. Mind you, this is during daylight. IOW’s
    it gets dark for a minute, not really longer. How is this a test? Oh, temps dropped over 12 degrees F.
    At least AC’s got a little rest. All thing considered
    I doubt there was much to worry about.

  2. Davy on Mon, 21st Aug 2017 1:48 pm 

    I was in totality and it was one of the most amazing phenomena I have been in. The corona is breathtaking. The darkness is surreal. What a day!

  3. Ghung on Mon, 21st Aug 2017 3:20 pm 

    Yep. 2 1/2 minutes of totality here. Breathtaking. I also graphed all weather parameters including solar radiation. Temp dropped about 14 degrees, the barometers dropped (not expected and possibly not related). Our PV trackers went to their eastern stops and returned to tracking about 3 minutes later.

  4. Outcast_Searcher on Mon, 21st Aug 2017 3:52 pm 

    Yeah, I don’t get it. The NYT had an article on this, implying it would be a big deal/challenge.

    As other commenters have noted, we have hours of darkness every night. We have storms, clouds, etc. And this thing happens gradually, and the totality is 2 to 2.5 minutes(ish) where it occurs.

    So if they can’t handle this when they have months or even years to plan exactly when and how it will occur — that would be pathetic.

    OTOH, even in 2024, by the time of the US’s next total solar eclipse, we should hopefully have enough battery capacity to handle the brief totality event without even needing to mess with much FF standby action. (This presumes batteries from Tesla et al crank up the way the greens are predicting).

  5. Apneaman on Mon, 21st Aug 2017 4:06 pm 

    The eclipse was a hoax like the moon landing. Evil, greedy grant money loving scientists used a big ballon to block out the sun and fool you all into thinking science can make accurate predictions. Ya right. They ‘claim’ they use the very same scientific method and scientific principles in their evil climate change predictions – it’s all a hoax for grant money, therefore the eclipse wasn’t real.

  6. Apneaman on Tue, 22nd Aug 2017 8:39 am 

    B.C. Wildfire Service: 19 fires combine west of Quesnel to create record-size blaze

    ” KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Over 400 firefighters are working to contain the largest wildfire in British Columbia’s history.

    Kevin Skrepnek of the BC Wildfire Service said 19 fires merged in an area west of Quesnel in the Interior, creating a single fire estimated to be 4,674 square kilometres in size.”

    “More than 1,060 fires have been sparked throughout B.C. since April 1, and about 10,000 square kilometres have been scorched by the flames.

    There were 135 fires burning on Monday, including seven that started within a 24-hour period”

  7. Cloggie on Wed, 23rd Aug 2017 11:13 am 

    Unexpected side effect recent solar eclipse in the US: the ISS (not to be confused with ISIS) was visible, thanks to the eclipse:

    Pictures from Wyoming. Interesting from 3:00 in the video.

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