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U.S. solar-dependent power grids will be tested by eclipse

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An upcoming eclipse puts a spotlight on power preparations

Solar panels in downtown L.A.
Solar panels in downtown L.A.
Shutterstock

On August 21st, the moon will pass directly between earth and the sun, shading the United States in half-light for roughly two hours. While astronomers are turning their eyes to the skies, the country’s solar utility operators will be monitoring the energy grid.

The eclipse is expected to cut North America’s generation of solar power by 70 megawatts a minute (PDF), hitting sunny California especially hard, since it’s home to about half of the solar power generation capacity. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the state’s share of solar power on the grid has increased from 0.4 percent to 10 percent in the last five years.

But the Golden State is ready. Utility operators in the state are already planning to compensate for the 6,000MW lost to the eclipse. They’ve set aside energy capacity from gas and hydroelectric power sources.

As more and more areas turn away from fossil fuels and hydro plants to solar panel farms, solar eclipses are becoming events with tangible impacts on energy.

Via: Quartz