A solar eclipse is nothing new, but the problem we are beginning to face now we are turning to more renewable resources for electricity is that when these sources are interrupted they can have detrimental effects on the power grid.
Previously, a solar eclipse had little to no effect. The gas and nuclear power plants would chug along just as they always had done; producing the power we consume daily. Now, a large proportion of our power comes from solar and the sudden drop in solar input means we need to be prepared for the outage with other sources.
Power grids are not designed for solar eclipses. They happen a lot faster than the incremental decrease or increase in power that is seen with a sunrise or sunset. Eclipses also affect a wider area than that of a typical cloud bank. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation has urged areas with high solar penetration to prepare plans for the event; notably the states of Nevada and North Carolina.
North Carolina will be hit hard due to the fact they have installed more than 3,000 megawatts of solar power electricity and the eclipse is due to block out more than 90% of sunshine across the entire state. It highlights the fragility of renewable sources and how for the time being until situations like this can be cared for independently, a backup of other power resources need to remain.
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