How the 2017 Solar Eclipse Will Impact the U.S. Electric Grid

Aug. 10, 2017

California expects to lose 4,194 megawatts of large-scale solar electricity production. 

An unusual occurrence, the impending eclipse set to transpire on August 21st will be just the third coast-to-coast eclipse in 100 years. While the previous two eclipses in 1918 and 1970 were rare and notable, they did not have an effect and particular concern we now have today: solar energy.

For the first time in America, people will be paying attention to and preparing for the impact of an eclipse on a solar grid.

Solar power generator giants like California expects to lose 4,194 megawatts of large-scale solar electricity production, according to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

“Our solar plants are going to lose over half of their ability to generate electricity during the two to two and a half hours that the eclipse will be impacting our area,” says Steven Greenlee, spokesperson for the California Independent System Operator, or CAISO, one of the largest independent grid operators in the world.

North Carolina is another state known to be a beacon for alternative energy. The effect of the eclipse on the Tar Heel State will be comparable to quickly shutting down several nuclear reactors at the same time, reports the News & Observer. Unique to its geography, North Carolina will be among the hardest hit since the moon is expected to block 90% of the state’s sunshine exactly when solar farms are operating at maximum capacity.

Fortuitously for corporate and industrial customers, utilities have had time to prepare for the eclipse. As reported by Vox, solar facilities have long been anticipating the eclipse, and mapped out systematic management techniques for the day, prepared to use sources from fossil fuel, nuclear and even hydropower.

And while solar makes up just under 1% of all the electricity produced in the country, the mere mention of preparing solar grids in a time of black out signifies just how far alternative energy has come in the last decade.

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