This Summer’s Eclipse Will Sap Solar Panels of Enough Energy to Power Seven MIllion Homes

To catch you up to speed in case you’ve been living under a rock, a massive solar eclipse is set to sweep across the sky later this month. Experts predict 7.4 million people will travel into the eclipse’s Oregon-to-South-Carolina pathway in order to witness the moon totally block out the sun for two whole minutes. And while the event is cause for excitement among amateur astronomers, August 21 is shaping up to be a stressful day for solar energy providers.

According to environmental non-profit Climate Nexus, the first total solar eclipse over the U.S. since 1979 will deprive American solar providers of 9,000 megawatts of energy. To put it in context, that’s enough to power seven million homes. While that figure might seem alarming, it’s a testament to how much American homes rely on this particular form of renewable energy today. Since the federal government established the Solar Investment Tax Credit in 2006, panel installations have increased by 1600 percent to a total of more than 1.4 million as of last year.

States from coast to coast will feel the impact, but California—which derives up to 40 percent of its power from solar sources on some days—will bear the brunt of the blocked sun. Thankfully, power suppliers are prepared with a contingency plan. Thanks to reserves of hydropower and natural gas, the state is “expecting no shortage of electricity or reliability incidents related to the eclipse,” according to a spokesperson for California’s power grid.

With the U.S. now relying on renewables for ten percent of its total power, the Great American Eclipse should offer an interesting case study on how astronomical events can impact our energy supply. With the next such eclipse slated for 2024, there should at least be plenty of time to work out the kinks.

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9 August 2017 10:18 pm
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