Wednesday, July 5, 2017
What Happens to Solar Power During an Eclipse?
On August 21st, 2017, the United States will see its first full solar eclipse in a generation. While solar eclipses are an exciting time for parents and small children, who experience them with wonder, they can also pose a number of difficulties.
Utility suppliers and anyone working at a green energy company in California are particularly inconvenienced by the eclipse. According to California's grid operator, the net demand for energy will rise by 6,000 megawatts as the solar output collapses -- that's roughly the equivalent to the power needs of Los Angeles.
While renewable energy is growing in popularity in the United States -- with more than 13% of energy generation coming from renewable sources -- it will take time for utility suppliers to learn all of the subtle challenges inherent in every energy source.
For instance, hydropower can be susceptible to both drought and flooding, whereas oil is dependent on large economic costs and dangerous working conditions.
While solar power is necessarily variable thanks to its dependence on clear skies, this total lack of energy generating ability comes at a high cost. According to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the amount of lost energy generation could amount to 70 megawatts per minute.
There is also the challenge of the rapid decline and reintroduction of the solar light, which is significantly more than would naturally be experienced.
In order to compensate for the loss, energy providers are taking steps to prepare themselves. The first step is to set aside energy reserves to be used during the eclipse. The second is looking for ways to maximize the hydroelectric generation.
One small blessing, according to Amber Motley, manager of CAISO, is the timing of the eclipse, which comes after a historically rainy winter season.