When the sun goes dark, California will lose the equivalent of five nuclear power plants of power.
California is bracing for a significant loss of electric power as its fast-growing fleet of solar electric panels plunge into darkness during a major solar eclipse on August 21.
While the eclipse will be partial in the state, energy planners are getting ready to tap 6,000 megawatts of electricity from other sources between 9 a.m. and noon PDT during the eclipse, according to the California ISO which oversees the electricity markets in America’s most populous state.
The new vulnerability of the massive electric grid to a celestial marvel like an eclipse reflects a massive transformation of how energy is being created and used in America – something most consumers do not ordinarily think about.
In less than two decades, America’s solar power generation has soared heavenward, from a mere 5 megawatts in 2000 to 42,619 megawatts last year.
The 6,000 megawatts California has to cover during the sun’s blackout is a massive amount of energy, the equivalent of the output of a handful of large nuclear
Fortunately, California this summer is blessed with 5,000 – 6,000 megawatts of hydroelectric resources as a result of ample snow and rains this past winter and spring, according to Deane Lyon, California ISO shift manager, real-time operations.
“We are planning to use a variety of approaches to this,” Lyon told the Energy Times.
At the height of the August eclipse, large utility scale solar farms will lose as much as 76 percent of power in the north while in the south the loss will get to 58 percent.
Above all, the electric market through its price signals will bring enough electric power to the market to serve all, he said. He does not anticipate any repetition of the massive price spikes that occurred in 2000-2001, when Enron manipulated energy shortages and the market to drive electric prices up 20-fold.
“We won’t see anything like the energy withholding crisis,” Lyon said.