What Happens To Your Solar Power During This Coming August’s Total Solar Eclipse
August 21, 2017 will offer a strong illustration of the impact solar has on the energy grid in Southern California. The Golden State is expected to lose 4,200 megawatts of energy statewide during the eclipse, between 7:45 am and 12:45 pm. For context, 1 megawatt powers roughly 1,000 homes—so the energy utilities will need to plan to replace the power for the equivalent of roughly 4.2 million homes. That’s because homes set up with solar systems will be producing a dramatically reduced amount of power for the grid—though still having to draw on the grid for energy to run their homes.
The eclipse and pertinent facts about path and shading
As a “total” eclipse, August’s celestial event will be visible throughout all of North America. It will shade California for about five hours on the 21st and reduce the solar production usually generated at that time by 50 to 75 percent. The eclipse will not be in full effect for the entirety of the five hours, however; the complete eclipse will last for roughly two and a half hours, then wane accordingly. The event should resemble something like a sunrise’s level of solar power to the grid at that time.
Off Grid Systems
Those who have installed off-grid solar systems will need to store enough energy to make it through the day unaffected. They will need to be mindful to charge their batteries by generating more power than they use in the days leading up to the eclipse. This kind of preparation doesn't come cheap. Solar energy batteries can be pricey, and some will have added additional panels to soak up excess energy for those days obscured by cloud cover or, y’know, solar eclipses.
How the utilities have been prepping, and how long
Since California is leading in solar energy, the utility companies have already forecasted that day’s loss in energy and prepared for it. The utilities plan to increase output from other sources, including hydroelectricity and natural gas, then reintroduce solar power as the sun reappears from behind the moon. California residents are unlikely to notice any change to their power during the eclipse. Even though the shading won’t impact the state as directly as others, experts still plan to generate 6,000 megawatts of additional energy to safely offset the expected loss of 4,200 megawatts of solar power.
What about the next eclipse? Will the impact of solar be too great to replace by then?
Although it is good that there is a solution to the current solar eclipse problem, what does this mean for the next several to come? As solar energy begins to take on more and more responsibility for powering the lives of Californians, there will be a greater strain on the grid when solar energy generation is hindered. By 2030, California is expected to derive 50 percent of its power from renewable resources—roughly double what we are producing currently. Added to that equation is the fact that California is expecting its population to grow to 44.1 million, up from its current 39.5-million mark. There will be a higher demand for power, and a greater amount that has to be replaced to the grid during each coming eclipse.
For more information about solar power or to install a solar system of your own, contact SunPower by Precis today. We have been helping residential and commercial clients make the switch to clean energy since 1988!