Four Ways Solar-Reliant Electrical Grids Did Just Fine During the Big Eclipse

Kyle Ritland

September 2017

Solar Eclipse.jpgRecently we saw the great solar eclipse of 2017 cross over Northern America! An event so rare that it was a first-in-a-lifetime experience for many. If you weren’t able to view the solar eclipse for yourself, you can find plenty of awesome photos of the event on the NASA website.

Although the eclipse generated plenty of excitement for the millions of observers, there was also a degree of uncertainty for those utility companies that rely heavily on solar generation. By its very nature, a solar eclipse reduces the amount of sunlight that strikes an array. At a time when many solar sceptics were quick to warn of mass power outages in states like California, the eclipse offered a unique opportunity to test the reliability of grid fueled heavily by the sun.

Well, the results are in! And the implications of the solar eclipse on a renewable-heavy grid was another bright spot for solar. Here are four ways that solar passed the big eclipse of 2017 with flying colors:

1. The eclipse caused an increased production in other forms of renewable energy sources. Wind power actually increased during the solar eclipse! The sudden drop in temperatures caused by the eclipse caused wind currents to pick up in some areas, resulting in more power from this renewable energy source.

2. Preparation was key. Enough measurable data has been collected on solar energy over the years to allow operators to successfully “weather” anticipated events. Scientist and engineers were generally well prepared to offset any energy lost during the eclipse by ramping up other sources, such as natural gas and wind.

3. There was a pretty hefty drop in demand for electricity during the eclipse. People were outside experiencing the solar eclipse, and that meant they weren’t doing laundry or cranking up their air conditioning. For many utilities, the drop in demand for electricity was much greater than the amount of solar energy lost.

4. We still have room for technological advancement. Although we didn’t see a measurable negative impact to the grid, the preparations did teach us one thing: there’s still plenty of opportunity for renewable technologies, like energy storage and batteries, to further fortify our national energy grid.

The solar eclipse was definitely a sight to be seen. It provided the opportunity to experience astronomy in a fun way. Most importantly, though, it proved that America’s investment in solar energy has not weakened our electrical grid. Utility companies were easily able to prepare for event, and were ready to utilize other sources of energy if necessary. Read more about the solar grid experience in this Bloomberg technology report.

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