Eclipse watchers around the country are braving traffic and crowds today to venture into the path of totality. But for grid operators in California, it presents a distinct challenge, as solar power represents about 8 percent of the state’s electricity mix. The New York Times reports:
As the eclipse carves a long shadow over California on Monday morning, it is expected to knock offline more than 5,600 megawatts’ worth of solar panels at its peak — a big chunk of the 19,000 megawatts of solar power that currently provide one-tenth of the state’s electricity. The California I.S.O. plans to fill the void by ramping up natural gas and hydroelectric power plants.
Then, a few minutes later, when the eclipse passes, all those solar panels will come roaring back to life, and grid operators will have to quickly make room for the sharp rise in generation by scaling back gas and hydropower.
Fortunately, grid operators have been planning for this event for a year. Future eclipses may present more of a challenge as solar power proliferates, but for now, the state should be okay. Still, residents are encouraged to conserve electricity during peak eclipse hours.
Meanwhile, a flashback ABC news report from the last total eclipse in the continental United States in 1979: