Solar Eclipse May Impact Solar Panel Users

Mark your calendars: Aug. 21 is the day a solar eclipse will cross the United States. This rare event occurs when the moon completely obscures the sun. And the brief period of darkness may have a big impact on the growing number of solar installations, warns a new release from Climate Nexus.

The eclipse will stretch across 14 states and likely will obstruct up to 9,000 megawatts of solar power. That is enough to power 7 million homes, according to the report.

Californians likely will be the most impacted and may see the biggest temporary dip in its solar power. The state relies on solar for up to 40 percent of its power on some days. California could lose about 4,194 megawatts of generating capacity from the solar eclipse. Other states likely to feel the impact could include North Carolina and New Jersey, additional solar-heavy states.

Solar has grown in popularity over the last decade. By the end of 2016, there were 1.4 million solar installations in the U.S.

PJM Interconnection LLC, operator of the country’s largest power grid covering the eastern U.S., estimated that 80 percent of its anticipated outages will be from rooftop solar panels.

Utility companies that rely on solar are already preparing for the temporary loss of power from the solar eclipse. They are not anticipating power outages from the event, and the companies expect to be able to fill any power gaps with natural gas and hydropower, for example. Some utility companies, however, have reached out to consumers to request they lighten their energy load during the eclipse.

“The eclipse presents some grid management challenges for California and the West,” Nancy Traweek, the executive director of systems operations for the California ISO (CAISO), the state’s power grid, said in a recent release. “However, with detailed planning and engagement among all parties we are expecting no shortage of electricity or reliability incidents related to the eclipse.”

The last time the U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979.

Source: “The Solar Eclipse Could Block 9,000 Megawatts of Solar Power,” (Aug. 9, 2017) and “A Solar Eclipse Could Wipe Out 9,000 Megawatts of Power Supplies,” Bloomberg (July 13, 2017)