Right now, millions of Americans are eagerly awaiting the total solar eclipse that will take place next week on August 21. An eclipse that passes across the entire country is quite rare, so it’s going to be a big day for amateur astronomy enthusiasts. But not everyone is quite so thrilled about the eclipse.
Electrical grid operators across the country are currently spending long hours trying to prepare for the big event, which is expected to reduce solar power production by approximately 9,000 megawatts before suddenly springing back into action at the conclusion of the eclipse. That could put a big strain on the electrical grid, and potentially cause trouble for the companies that regulate solar power output.
The good news is that it doesn’t sound like the eclipse is going to have a noticeable effect on energy availability in most places. Electrical grid operators will use nuclear and natural gas plants to keep things as normal as possible. In some areas where solar arrays are particularly prevalent, however, homeowners might notice a brief disruption in their energy production.
North Carolina, for example, is expected to experience 95 percent darkness for a few minutes when the moon blocks the sun during the eclipse. That loss of sunshine, coupled with the fact that North Carolina has installed about 3,000 megawatts of solar power capacity, could cause a fleeting dip in the availability of electricity throughout the state. Fortunately, electrical grid operators have had plenty of time to prepare for the eclipse, and they will continue to monitor the situation in the days leading up to the event, just to be safe.
Here in California, our own electrical grids and rooftop solar arrays shouldn’t experience noticeable disruptions during the eclipse. We’ll only have a partial view of the event, but if you travel north to Oregon you can see the total eclipse for yourself!