Friday, June 9, 2017

Californians Brace for Solar Power Loss During August Eclipse

Sean Breslin
Published: June 9,2017

A total solar eclipse is pictured from the city of Ternate, in Indonesia's Maluku Islands, on March 9, 2016.
(BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
A total solar eclipse is expected to pass north of California on Aug. 21, but the event will impact the Golden State's solar-powered electricity on a day when summer heat could make air conditioning highly important.
California's solar facilities powered 4.7 million homes with renewable electricity last year, and when the eclipse occurs over the West Coast in the late-morning hours Aug. 21, it'll happen at a time in the day when solar power accounts for as much as 40 percent of the power grid, according to the Mercury News in San Jose. And although the eclipse won't pass directly over California, there will be major impacts from the decreased sunlight.
"The solar eclipse is farther north of us, but we will see between 50 [percent] and 75 percent of solar production from our solar plants reduced during that [time]," Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for California's Independent System Operator (ISO), a nonprofit that manages California's power grid, told Live Science.
(MORE: The Strange Weather of Our Solar System's Planets)
As the eclipse begins, utility companies plan to ramp up hydroelectricity and natural gas to cover for the loss of solar power, Live Science reported. Between 7:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. local time, the eclipse could take away 4,200 megawatts of electricity in California alone – enough to affect 4.2 million homes, Greenlee also said.
The stakes are high to keep the power flowing, as late August is the hottest time of year for much of California. Temperatures might soar on Aug. 21, and a prolonged outage could be dangerous and perhaps even deadly.
But officials are confident they have the right measures in place to avoid a blackout while the sun is blocked out by the moon. Authorities have taken it a step further and asked residents to unplug appliances, which may keep the state from having to use the backup plans for too long, according to Bloomberg.
"We all can dance with the grid," California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Picker told the Mercury News. "We can all be active participants rather than passive subjects."
MORE: Solar Eclipse – 2016

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