Solar energy during a total eclipse
21st September 2017
Tonight, at approximately 19:30 local time, parts of the world will gather to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse.
Here in the UK, we will only see a partial eclipse, with the full-blown total eclipse occurring over the US and parts of South America. Nevertheless, the moment in time when the Moon deprives us a view of the Sun never fails to fascinate, but it’s also worth considering if and how this impacts solar energy…
On average, a total eclipse lasts 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Throughout this time, there will be no energy generated by solar power. California produces the most solar energy in the US and, during the eclipse, it’s estimated that there will be a 4.2 gigawatts deficit.
To put this into context, that is enough to power over 400 million LED bulbs!
Speaking of which, energy efficient lightbulbs are just one of the suggestions being made by California Public Utilities Commission as part of their campaign ‘Do your thing for the Sun’. The campaign is designed to ask consumers for their energy saving ideas on the day of the eclipse to compensate for the drop in solar generation.
And what about the impact of the eclipse for off-grid energy users?
For those who have solar installations at their homes, they will experience a drop off in power during the eclipse should they have no storage available. However with time to prepare, they should have no problem in dealing with this.
So, in a nutshell, a total eclipse does impact solar energy, but nothing approaching catastrophic. In fact, the hope is that it could lead to consumers having a more efficient mentality going forward.
Oh, and you may be wondering when the next total eclipse will be visible from the UK; with the last coming in 1999, the next is not forecast for another 73 years. There will be, however, a very large partial eclipse in August 2026, which the solar industry is already planning for. So, plenty of time to prepare, and it does makes you wonder how prominent solar energy could be in the UK by then…
Read more about the eclipse here