The Solar Eclipse – More than what the eye could see . . .

The Solar Eclipse – More than what the eye could see . . .

By Tom Dougherty

Monday August 21, 2017 will be a day long remembered for a very rare occurrence of a total Solar Eclipse that could be viewed from coast to coast across the United States.  This was perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity for those fortunate enough to experience the event in the relatively narrow pathway from Oregon to South Carolina in which the total eclipse could be viewed.    If you missed it, like me, the next opportunity will be in 7 years so make your plans now!

For those of us in the Energy industry the most logical question was probably, what will be the impact on solar energy generation and the impact on the Energy Grid as the eclipse moved across the country?  It seemed obvious that the event might cause a reduction in Solar power generation, which it did, but here are a few other interesting things that impacted our energy world as well while all the attention was on the magnificent sky show!

  1. Solar generation was impacted by the eclipse but perhaps not as much as you might think.  First the path for the total eclipse was relatively narrow and really only passed over a few significant solar generation facilities.
  2. While solar generation was diminished so was the demand for electricity for the following reasons:
  • The eclipse caused a drop in temperature, which reduced the electric load normally needed to handle the need for increased use of air conditioning equipment throughout the afternoon.
  • Many folks took a break from what they normally would have been doing to go outside and observe the great event.   This meant they were not consuming the amount of energy doing what they usually do, which resulted in a further drop on demand for electricity.
  • There were requests for energy conservation made well ahead of the event which also helped to reduce demand as the solar resource generation was reduced.   

Overall the event was well managed through reduced demand and the utilization of other generation resources.  Of course, this was aided by a lot of advanced notice and planning.

So, while you were looking at one of the great natural events of our lifetime, there were a lot of energy-related activities playing out around the country, and a lot of efforts to make the solar eclipse a non-event for the energy grid!

Congratulations to the grid management teams and to everyone who did get to experience the total solar eclipse.  Hope to see the next one in person in 2024.

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Tom Dougherty is CEO of MarketWISE