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Solar Eclipse ‘17: How California is Preparing for Solar Power Loss During the Eclipse?

All over the country viewers are getting ready with the eclipse glasses for the solar eclipse on Monday i,e. 21 August. That day moon will completely cover the sun which will start from the Pacific Ocean to Charleston, S.C. and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Authorities are forecasting about huge traffic jams, strained networks, etc. for the public. But there is another issue which is big and important to look on forecasted by authorities that is: Solar Power Supply.

California is a huge supplier of the solar power to almost half of the country. So even a small loss of sun can have a major effect on the supply.

“We’re doing a lot of coordination, a lot of preparation,” says Deane Lyon, a manager at the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages about 80 percent of the state’s electric grid. “It’s probably the most work this company has done to prepare for a three-hour event in our history.”

Though, Solar eclipse is one of those intermittent events that will impact solar power.

“So this was a particularly cloudy day,” says Jan Klube of Enphase. The Petaluma-based company oversees the solar system around the country regularly.

He points out to the afternoon hours to show how a single cloud can affect. “You see the big drop, so there’s a cloud coming and going,” he explains. “That’s why you see the zigzag.”

On the of chance when your solar panel is in path totality during an eclipse, “it will go all the way to zero,” he says.

California is not exactly in the path of the eclipse but 90 percent of the sun in the north will become obscured by moons partial shadow and 60 percent in the south. Which is more than enough for the people to become restless who have to keep California’s light on. It is remarkable because solar power has been growing in California. Some day’s it makes up as much as 40 percent of the state’s energy supply.

During an eclipse, thousands of residential and commercial buildings will need to switch grid power in place of solar power. Add that to the loss utility scale solar farm and California will need to fill a gap which is equal to the solar energy used in 6 million homes.

“Luckily, we had a really good water year this year,” Lyon says. “So we’ll have some pretty good flexibility on the hydro.” That wasn’t the case during the past few summers when reservoirs were low due to the drought.

The California ISO is organizing the extra power before to try to meet the needs so power prices do not hike. What hydropower dams can’t make up, natural gas power plants will.

If the supply does not meet demand there will be a blackout. And meeting the demand with the grid the critical issue will be the sun as the sun disappears and appears 2-3 times faster than normal.

Grid operators say they’re prepared because, with renewable energy on the rise, they’ve learned to deal with power dips every day. In recent years, the California ISO has beefed up its modeling and forecasting to handle the swings.

Here it is not like that only California will face loss other states too will see an effect. Duke Energy in North Carolina expects to lose about 90 percent of its solar supply, though it has about a quarter of what California uses. Its plans to use natural gas power plants to overcome.

The next eclipse will be a bigger challenge for California and other states which took place in 2024.

“It’ll be a major thing for the people running the grid at that time to manage,” Lyon says. “It won’t be me. I’ll be retired for hopefully several years by then.”

Energy officials are requesting Californians to turn off lights and conserve energy for several hours on the morning of Aug. 21.

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