California prepares solar users for August solar eclipse

Let no one say Californians don’t prepare for potential natural disasters.

On Aug. 21, California will have a perfect view of a powerful solar eclipse, which won’t happen again until 2045.

How powerful will the eclipse be? Well, 76% of Northern California to 62% of Southern California will see an obscured sun between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. – which will greatly reduce the power output of the state’s extensive network of utility-scale and residential solar arrays. and this reduction in solar radiation will directly affect the output of both large scale photovoltaic (PV) electric power plants and rooftop solar.

Currently, California’s investor-owned utilities operate 10 GW of grid-connected solar PV. Scientists predict that the production for these plants will plummet nearly 66% at the height of the eclipse – from 9 GW to 3 GW. As a result, the morning ramp up will be disrupted with a down ramp beginning at 9:02 a.m. An accelerated up ramp will then begin at 10:22 a.m. and run until noon.  

“When the sun goes away, so does the energy that powers our renewable solar panels,” said Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “If millions of Californians turn off appliances and power strips to unplug from the grid during the eclipse, we can let our hard working sun take a break.  We can send a message to the rest of the country that we can do all of that without being forced to rely on fossil fuels as the only foundation of our electricity.”

Picker pledged to work with businesses, community organizations, local governments, and others to mobilize Californians to reduce energy use during the eclipse.

“We can replace solar megawatts with our “negawatts” or “BetterWatts,” Picker said.  “Join with us and stand in for the sun while it takes a short break on August 21st.”