Eclipse Will Cut 30 Gigawatts Of Solar Power Across Nation's Grids

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Apr 08, 2024 - 03:00 PM

Later today, as millions of Americans head outside to observe the total solar eclipse, power grid operators across the country will face a significant reduction in solar power generation. This will place grids in a vulnerable spot, as backup fossil fuel generation and or battery reserves will need to kick on to mitigate grid stress.

Bloomberg data estimates that 30 gigawatts of solar energy—equivalent to 30 nuclear reactors—will be lost today because the eclipse will partially block sunlight for solar fields. 

Bloomberg compiled a list of the top US power grids that will experience the largest losses in solar electricity generation: 

  • The Texas power grid will be affected the most, losing about 17 gigawatts, according to estimates compiled by the Schneider Capital Group LLC.

  • To the northeast, the grid operated by PJM Interconnection LLC will lose about 4.8 gigawatts of utility-scale solar power and about the same amount from rooftop systems. 

  • The impact on the Midcontinent Independent System Operator grid, covering much of the Midwest, will be slightly less — 4 gigawatts.

Here's a timeline of the solar eclipse, as well as the power markets that will be the most affected from Texas to Maine, according to S&P Global

"Because we know about the eclipse ahead of time, utilities have prepared and planned for the lost solar energy," the Energy Information Administration penned in a recent note. 

EIA added, "Several grid authorities have released plans for how they plan to deal with the change in solar generation during the eclipse. During the eclipse, electricity generators in the affected areas will have to increase output from other sources of electricity generation to supplement the decrease in solar power." 

The country's last total solar eclipse occurred in 2017. Since then, solar generation has tripled in the US, accounting for about 4% of total power generation.

Today will be a major test of renewable-heavy grids. Maybe it's time, instead of grids focusing on building out unreliable solar and wind power generation - to focus on nuclear. The CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric said last week: "Nuclear should be part of the future."