While North America is anxiously waiting for the solar eclipse, the solar energy industry is very cautious about the event. Power plant managers and electricity system operators in North America are cautiously preparing for this event when the moon passes between the earth and the sun.
An eclipse is caused by the alignment of the earth, the moon, and the sun. It’s a relatively rare occurrence because the moon doesn’t orbit in the same plane as the earth and sun. However, when all three line up, the moon covers up the disc of the sun, and those in the direct path of the moon’s shadow will be able to see the sun become dark.
August 2017 solar eclipse in its totality will last for about two minutes and 40 seconds. The effect of this total solar eclipse will turn the day into the night. Eclipses have happened before but this eclipse is happening at the time electricity generation from solar and wind are exceeding electricity generation form other tradition sources such as hydro, coal, nuclear, and so on.
During the solar eclipse, electricity generation from solar power plants will drop to zero and electricity system operators have to match this drop with electricity from other sources such as gas, and hydro to keep the electricity grid stable and to provide electricity to customers during this short period. Furthermore, when the solar eclipse come to an end, solar plants will suddenly start pumping huge amount of electricity into the grid and electricity system operators must react to these changes in a timely manner to keep the electric grid stable and to provide electricity to their customers.
Even though Electricity system operators reach out to “peaker” power plants to smooth out swings from solar and wind on a regular basis on a much smaller scale the sudden drop and jump in demand for power from the grid due to eclipse would be much larger and raises worries about overburdening a system that will already be running at a summer peak.
This eclipse is happening at an interesting time when solar power plant capacities in many countries are increasing steadily. This event also will expose us to many unknowns and will help to make the solar power plants more robust and stable in years to come. We are confident that when we pass through this event we will have more experience, data and confidence that are necessary to make solar energy main stream.